Drawn from Quartet + first thing's first Helen Sung's fast and furious take after the introductory exploratory scene setting is delivered on Geri Allen's 'Feed the Fire' (which goes back to the 1990s on Allen's 1994 Blue Note album Twenty One with Ron Carter and Tony Williams and later on Some Aspects of Water that Storyville released three years later) has been extraordinarily well-mastered and the zestful playing packs a considerable punch. The thing flies.
The clarity of the piano sound is so direct you'd swear it was in the room with you. Sung is special. I know that from hearing her a few times best of all in London's Soho in late-2015 when the US player was in clarinettist Oran Etkin's all-star band in the Pizza in the club's basement under Dean Street. A beautiful cadential figure from Sung at the end provided a big highlight of the evening and stays with me like it's still resounding.
Next month sees the release of all the tracks on Quartet + as a complete album on New York jazz label Sunnyside cooking with gas a lot this year with piles of fine albums already. Co-produced by mainstream swing violin star Regina Carter, the concept is a core band plus the strings of the Harlem Quartet, John Ellis is on sax, David Wong double bass and the fine erstwhile Blanchardian & Ellingian Kendrick Scott on drums. The album also sees Sung originals and arrangements of pieces by Carla Bley, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland and Toshiko Akiyoshi.
Helen Sung, above. Photo: Kat Villacorta