Jazz pianist Helen Sung brings her act back home to Queens this weekend for a jazz vespers service. From her Elmhurst home, the Houston-born Sung spoke about the program, her upcoming projects and her outlook on jazz.
Sung says the service, which will feature two sets, is “a program that highlights the beauty of the Christmas season through jazz music.”
It will close out a busy year for the pianist who has been active with the Mingus Big Band, Mingus Dynasty, T.S. Monk Jazz Group and Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic Project.
Her tours have taken her from London to Belgium, Italy, Ireland, India and other countries
“I went to China twice,” the multilingual Chinese-American artist said. “I performed in Mexico for the first time and I got to practice my Spanish. I speak Mandarin Chinese, too. I went to China last year. I saw some of the same people [this year]. They said ‘Your Chinese is better this year!’”
She notes, “In Taiwan, in China, especially the mainland, [jazz is] still somewhat of a novelty for an audience. But it’s exciting to see young people studying the music and learning, getting into it, ’cause I think that’s where it starts.”
A graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, Sung teaches at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and finds it “really intense, but it’s also inspiring to be in a school environment again. Learning, discovering, searching — that process of growing and developing never stops as an artist.”
Sung is excited about the upcoming release of her CD, “Anthem for a New Day.” It features acclaimed saxophonist Paquito D’ Rivera and violinist Regina Carter, both of whom she’s played with in concert and praises as “amazing artists and people.”
Sung remains active with Queens Jazz Overground, a coalition of local jazz musicians. She’s played at their monthly jam sessions at Flushing Town Hall and says, “It’s exciting to see that happen and to get to meet jazz musicians who live right in the same borough.”
When: Saturday, Dec. 21, 5 p.m.
Where: Church in the Gardens, 50 Ascan Ave., Forest Hills Gardens