Exclusive stream: Helen Sung, “Brother Thelonious” from Anthem For A New Day (2014)

A past winner of the Mary Lou Williams Piano Competition, Helen Sung knows her way around eighty-eight keys, and after five well-received albums, this NYC residing, Houston, Texas native is bringing her talents to the Concord Music label.

The Concord debut Anthem For A New Day is set for release January 28, and it’s already safe to call it the best way to get acquainted with her exceptional talents. For this date, she put together a crack sextet with Seamus Blake (saxes), Ingrid Jensen (trumpet) Reuben Rogers (bass), Obed Calvaire (drums) and Samuel Torres (percussion). John Ellis, Regina Carter and Paquito D’Rivera lend their skills for a handful of tracks.

Those are reasons enough to make Anthem an entry point to her catalog, but it’s also the multiplicity she invests in this album, whether it’s mainstream, modern or fusion jazz; acoustic piano or Fender Rhodes. They’re all tied together by the exuberance of her keyboard attack, done with grace, not overly done dramatics.

The range also expands to choice of songs: this album is full of creative adaptations of old tunes like “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” and “Epistrophy.” All the same, she shows imagination in her own songs. That begins with the starting track, “Brother Thelonious.”

“Brother Thelonious” had its origins in a song Sung was commissioned to pen as a theme song for a Belgian ale named just that. Like a good brew, this tune is frothy, complex and is pleasing for those with sophisticated palates. Blake and Rogers get their licks in but its Sung who lets go and shreds starting just before three-minute mark.

That’s why we just had to give you a taste test via the exclusive stream above. A great way to begin Anthem For A New Day, and it doesn’t let up from there.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.