Going Express1

Going Express – CD

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Helen Sung – Going Express (2010) Sunnyside Records

Review by Ken Dryden for All Music Guide

Helen Sung has shown much growth as a leader, though this is only her fourth CD as a leader. Winner of the Mary Lou Williams Piano Competition and a graduate of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, Sung is on fire throughout this live set at the Jazz Standard, where she’s joined by saxophonist Seamus Blake, bassist Lonnie Plaxico, and drummer Eric Harland. Her dazzling approach to Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale” blends post-bop with Latin jazz and a bit of Afro-Cuban jazz, with Blake’s potent tenor providing the perfect foil for her. Her renditions of two Monk compositions show plenty of imagination. Disguising the introduction to “In Walked Bud,” she romps through it with the rhythm section. A surprising choice is “Eronel,” a song infrequently recorded, but Sung has done her homework, keeping its whimsical essence while also showcasing Plaxico at length in their duo performance. Her lyricalsetting of Billy Strayhorn’s “Lotus Blossom” has a surprising twist, as it is a duet with Harland. The pianist’s originals are also impressive. The fierce post-bop vehicle “Going Express” is a solid opener, with Blake’s adventurous soprano sax and furious piano leading the way. Two bonus tracks (Sung’s infectious “Duplicity” and an expressive version of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” that takes it well away from its subtle theme) and Billy Childs’ aural liner notes are only accessible for playback via computer.

Personnel: Helen Sung—piano; Seamus Blake—tenor and soprano saxophones; Lonnie Plaxico—bass; Eric Harland—drums