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Helen Sung to Perform her Commission "Sung With Words" - CANCELED DUE TO STORM


Helen Sung presents "Sung With Words," a project sponsored by Chamber Music America

The Vermont Jazz Center welcomes Helen Sung and celebrates her Chamber Music America sponsored project, "Sung With Words" on Saturday, January 19th at 8:00 PM at the Vermont Jazz Center. The pianist/composer will present a new body of work that embodies the alliance of poetry and jazz and then takes it to new places. The performers in the octet are Helen Sung (piano and composition), Jason Palmer (trumpet), John Ellis (woodwinds), Christie Dashiell and Alina Engibaryan (Vocals), David Wong (bass), Kush Abadey (drums) and Samuel Torres (percussion).

"Sung with Words" is a collaboration between Sung and California Poet Laureate (December 2015-Ocotober 2018) Dana Gioia. Together they have crafted a synergistic repertoire that digs deep even while some of the material is playful and beckons the listeners to revisit their own jazz experiences in times gone by. The depth of the work can be found in the seriousness of the compositions, the complexity of the arrangements and the multilayered meanings of the language. The playfulness can be discovered in some of the subject matter and the drama that unfolds in both the music and the narrative. The sum of the parts is a delightful journey of poetry and song woven into ingenious musical arrangements.

In listening to this material, we sense the mutual resect that is shared between the two creators. In an online promo video created by Sung, she speaks of how she initially felt intimidated by poetry until Gioia shared with her his view that "poetry is meant to be read out loud, that it's musical." He encouraged her to "listen to the rhythm of the words, the sounds, and the meaning will come." On first listen, Gioia's texts are easily assimilated, they conjure up vivid imagery that transport the listeners to places that are real and could relate to jazz culture, as illustrated by this section from his poem "Let's go Downtown:"

It's a Hot Summer Night/Let's not stay home and get in a fight/Let's eat spicy food in a dark little dive/And let our bodies know we're alive/Summer has come. The young are on fire/And every tattoo spells a word for desire/They're strolling as naked as custom allows/They never say later. They only say now.

On the album, Gioia reads this poem in its entirety without accompaniment. His iteration is followed by the exciting percussion grooves of Colombian conguero Samuel Torres. Carmen Lundy then sings a melodic rendition of the poem over contrapuntal, funky horn lines. In her arrangements, Sung demonstrates an uncanny ability to enhance the poetry by creating discernable forms that frame Gioia's carefully chosen words rather than competing with them.

Thanks to a generous grant from Chamber Music America and the Doris Duke Foundation, Sung is able to travel with a fairly large band to promote this ambitious project. She will be bringing an 8-piece group to the Vermont Jazz Center in order to re-create the material from her recently released recording, for which she has just finished a CD release tour which included performances in Denver, Santa Cruz and New York City.

Instrumentalists performing in the front line include trumpeter Jason Palmer and saxophonist John Ellis. Palmer is a VJC Summer Faculty member who has appeared or recorded with Roy Haynes, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Smith, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ravi Coltrane, Mark Turner, Jeff Ballard, Lee Konitz, Phil Woods, Common, Roy Hargrove, Lewis Nash, and more. Palmer received the 2014 French American Cultural Exchange Jazz Fellowship and was named a 2011 Fellow in Music Composition by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. He took First Place in the 2009 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition.  The June 2007 issue of Downbeat Magazine cited him as one of the "Top 25 trumpeters of the Future." In addition to performing on over forty albums as a sideman, Palmer has recorded eight albums under his own name and is currently a Steeplechase Records Recording artist. Three of his recordings have received four stars or better in Downbeat Magazine's reviews. Saxophonist John Ellis has worked with John Patitucci, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Miguel Zenón, Darcy James Argue, Charlie Hunter, and pop icon Sting. His discography lists more than 100 album credits as a sideman, with more than a dozen released in 2014 alone, including acclaimed albums by Zenón, drummer Otis Brown III, pianists Helen Sung and Edward Simon, and blues/gospel/soul trio The Holmes Brothers. Ellis has released nine albums as a leader, three of those featuring his urban carnival band Double-Wide. He was the second place winner of the Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition in 2002.

Two singers will be performing with Sung: Christie Dashiell and Alina Engibaryan. Dashiell, a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk Institute's International Vocal Competition, has performed at the Kennedy Center as a participant in the 2010 Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead program and is the recipient of DownBeat magazine's Best College Graduate Jazz Vocalist and Outstanding Soloist awards in the jazz vocal category. She can be heard on John Blake's Motherless Child, The Jolley Brothers' Memoirs Between Brothers, Marquis Hill's The Way We Play and as a Kennedy Center Discovery Artist on NPR's JazzSet hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater. Dashiell has performed in concert with Esperanza Spalding, Fred Hammond, Smokey Robinson, Geri Allen, and Allan Harris and will soon be releasing her debut album, Time All Mine. Also on vocals will be Alina Engibaryan, who is originally from Russia and has been called "one in a million" by Al Jarreau. In 2015, Engibaryan won the Shure Montreux Jazz Voice Competition and was a finalist in the Prinses Christina Jazz Concours and the Dutch Vocal Competition. Engibaryan has three recordings as a leader, including We Are with Chris Potter, Michael League and Taylor Eigsti.

Joining Helen Sung in the rhythm section will be bassist David Wong, drummer Kush Abaday and percussionist Samuel Torres. Wong is a first call NYC-based musician who graduated from Julliard in classical bass. He has recorded with Bebo Valdes, Aaron Diehl, Russell Malone, Dick Oats, Sachal Vasandani, Benny Green, Roy Haynes, Jimmy Heath, Wycliffe Gordon, Grant Stewart, Jeb Patton, Walt Weiskopf and the Village Vanguard Orchestra. Drummer Kush Abaday is a first call musician based in Brooklyn who has been performing and recording with Chico Freeman, Jimmy Greene's ensemble, Melisa Aldana, John Ellis, Shai Maestro, Gilad Hekselman, David Weiss, Myron Waldon, Ben Wendel, Aaron Parks, Josh Evans, Alex Claffy, Rashaan Carter and many others. Samuel Torres a Colombian percussionist whose credits include a collaboration for 2013 Latin Grammy nominated Alejandro Sanz's "La Música No Se Toca" (2013). In 1999, Grammy Award winner Arturo Sandoval contracted Torres and toured with him for four years. In 2000, Torres received the second place at the Monk International Jazz Competition for Hand Percussion. Throughout his career as a percussionist, Torres has performed with Tito Puente, Chick Corea, Poncho Sanchez, Pete Escovedo, Dave Valentine, Michael Brecker, Don Byron, Claudio Roditi, Paquito D'Rivera, Caribbean Jazz Project, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Lila Downs, Candido Camero, Shakira, Sofia Rei, Edmar Castañeda, Hector Martignon and Mike Stern among many others.

In a recent article in Jazz Times Magazine, Sung speaks about how this project has transformed her so that now she has become an advocate for both jazz and poetry. "Jazz is an art form where it's so rich and so deep, so many people sacrificed so much to contribute and make it what it is today, and I think it's the same for poetry." Sung invites us to join her to revel in this newfound love of poetry infused with her ingenious arrangements and stellar band.

The Vermont Jazz Center is honored to present Helen Sung with Words. The event will take place on Saturday, January 19th at 8:00 PM. This concert will likely sell out, so be sure to purchase tickets in advance. The VJC is grateful for this concert's sponsors: Dave Ellis and Anne Greenewalt of Ellis Music, Mark Anagnostopulos and Janet Zinter, Mary Ellen Copeland and Ed Anthes, and Cohen and Rice Law. The VJC is also thankful for the ongoing support of Holiday Inn Express Suites of Brattleboro. VJC publicity is underwritten by the Brattleboro Reformer, WVPR, WVEW and WFCR.

Tickets for Helen Sung's Sung With Words at the Vermont Jazz Center are $20+ general admission, $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts); available at In the Moment in Brattleboro, or online at, and by email at Tickets can also be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line, 802-254-9088, ext. 1. Handicapped access is available by calling the VJC at 802 254 9088.



Vermont Jazz Center to launch a new semester of classes starting on week of September 17th


The Vermont Jazz Center will host a new ten-week session of classes beginning the week of September 17th. Courses include Youth Jazz for ages 10 through high school, Anna Patton's Soubrette Choir, the Latin Jazz Ensemble, the Jazz Uke Ensemble, Claire Arenius' Blue Note Ensemble, a Jazz Guitar Ensemble with Draa Hobbs, and, NEW this semester, a Samba Percussion Ensemble led by Julian Gerstin and Ron Kelley.

Join a combo and learn how to perform classic jazz compositions while being guided by one of the VJC's professional faculty. If you've never improvised, that's no problem. There are opportunities for all including classical musicians intrigued by jazz's structure and improvisational opportunities.

Sessions are 10 weeks long (except for Youth Jazz which is 8 weeks and will begin on October 2nd) The classes will culminate during a full day of performances on December 8th at the Jazz Center Performance Space during the Cotton Mill Hill Open House.

Schedule for VJC's Fall Education Opportunities: 2018

11:00 - 12:30 Samba Troupe - Julian Gerstin and Ron Kelley, instructors. Alternate Sundays through 12/16. First class meets 9/23/18
2:30 - 4:00 PM: Jazz Guitar Ensemble - Draa Hobbs, instructor.
First class meets 9/23/18.

5:15 - 6:45 PM Blue Note Ensemble - Claire Arenius, instructor.
First class meets 9/17/18.

3:45 - 5:00 Youth Jazz Ensemble - Eugene Uman, instructor. First class meets 10/2/18.
5:15 - 6:45 Uke Jazz Ensemble (At VJC) - Ben Carr, instructor First class meets 9/18/18.
5:30 - 7:15 Soubrette Choir Meets at 62 Spruce Street, Brattleboro Anna Patton, instructor. First class meets 9/11/18/

4:15 - 5:45 Latin Jazz Ensemble - Julian Gerstin and Eugene Uman, Instructors. First class meets 9/19/18.
6:00 - 7:30 - VJC Sextet (full) Rob Freeberg, director


Sept. 15 - Etienne Charles and Creole Soul
A Trinidadian trumpet star who builds off of that country's carnival tradition. A daring Improviser, Charles also delivers with heart-wrenching lyricism. -Jazz Times

Fri. Oct. 12th - Christian McBride and New Jawn Quartet
Six-time Grammy Award winning bassist Christian McBride leads an all-star quartet with no chordal instruments in the spirit of Ornette and Sonny.

November 2 and 3rd (Fri./Sat) - Emerging Artist Festival
A major event featuring area youth ensembles, showcases and master classes plus a Saturday doubleheader with King Klave and Sonic Asylum.

Dec. 7th (Friday) - VJC's Annual Big Band Gala: A Tribute to Artie Shaw
Four affiliates of the Artie Shaw Orchestra will join the VJC's big band to perform swing music made famous by the legendary clarinetist.

January 19th- Helen Sung: "Sung with Words"
Helen Sung has written a collection of songs to the poetry of Dana Gioia. Features an all-star Octet with two vocalists.

February 9th - Sullivan Fortner Trio
Winner of the Cole Porter Fellowship and the Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists, one of the top pianists of his generation.

March 16th - Russell Malone Quartet

The New York Times has called Malone "a guitarist of taste and tradition." He is one of today's leading guitarists, a mature and revered master.

April 12-13 (Fri./Sat.) - Solo Jazz Piano Festival

The VJC's third annual Solo Jazz Piano Festival builds on its past success. This year's headliner is Joanne Brackeen and a laureate of the American Piano Association

May 18th< - Pedrito Martínez and Alfredo Rodriguez Duo
Two of Cuba's greatest young musical masters come together in an incendiary duo performance.

June 1st - Sheila Jordan and Friends
Cameron Brown, Eugene Uman and Others
A celebration and appreciation of NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan's 90th year and her two-decade relationship with the Vermont Jazz Center.

The Vermont Jazz Center is an internationally recognized institution that provides jazz education, programming and outreach. Currently in its 40th year, it was founded in 1974 by the legendary guitarist, Attila Zoller and is now run by pianist, Eugene Uman.

The VJC features a summer jazz workshop, a monthly concert series, Wednesday night jam sessions, and frequent collaborations with area schools, arts organizations and businesses.

Mission: The Vermont Jazz Center is dedicated to creating and preserving jazz through the presentation of workshops, concerts, and instruction to a broad constituency of artists, students, and the general public.

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Upcoming Concerts
Helen Sung: "Sung with Words" - CANCELED DUE TO STORM
January 19th, 8:00 PM
Sullivan Fortner Trio
February 9th, 8:00 PM
Russell Malone Quartet
March 16th , 8:00 PM
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Handicap Accessible
Concerts at the VJC are handicap accessible.

SEATING: For wheelchair or other handicapped seating at concerts, please call in advance, 802-254-9088 or 802-579-5515.

PARKING AND ENTRANCE: The Cotton Mill’s handicapped entrance is on the south side (on your right as you enter the parking lot). There is one van-accessible parking spot next to this entrance. Other handicapped spots are located along the west side of the building (facing you as you enter the parking lot. There is no handicapped entrance or elevator on this side.

ELEVATOR: To get to VJC on the second floor, you’ll need to use the freight elevator. At the handicapped entrance, pass the flight of stairs and go through the door on your left, into the building's loading area. The elevator is at the far end of the loading area. If you have someone to assist you, make sure they open and close both the elevator’s gate and main door, both from inside (to run it) and when you exit (so other people can use it). If you need assistance with the elevator, call us. We appreciate a call ahead of time but you can also call when you arrive, and we’ll send someone right down. 802-254-9088 or 802-579-5515.

RESTROOMS: Accessible restrooms are located at the far end of the building. As you exit our concert space take a left, and at the end of the hall take a right. They’re pretty far. Leave yourself time.

Please call to discuss arrangements to facilitate your enjoyment of this concert: (802) 254 9088, ext. 2.

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