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Marians Jazzroom

12. – 16. Februar 2019
Interview mit dem Musiker der Woche: Helen Sung

Helen, what does Jazz means to you?

Jazz music is my personal “emancipation proclamation,” sending me on a journey of artistic exploration and discovery that continues today. It is an American music of freedom, self-expression, and generosity that has become a global art form, taking in influences from and  also influencing other kinds of music, while still remaining jazz through and through. Jazz is an art form that brings people together, building community and crossing barriers. It calls for courageous honesty, requiring me (coming from the world of classical piano) to look within and ask – do I have something to say as an artist? Jazz has helped me become (and hopefully continue becoming) a better, maybe even best, version of myself.

You’re in the music business for quite a while. During this time – what has changed for you personally?

The “business of music” is not for the faint of heart – it requires perseverance, determination, discipline, organization, and a sense of humor. Since I dived in almost 19 years ago (how time flies!) some things have changed: I am grateful to be getting better gigs and opportunities / I have now recorded and released 7 leader albums (the latest of which is called Sung With Words and is my first recording of all original music and songs with lyrics!) / I am working with great arts people (like my European agent Bella Concerts) / I am growing my audience. A fairly recent challenge is the rise of social media – I am still experimenting with how I want to “do” things like FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Other tasks have remained the same: leading a band / finding work / organizing tours / promotion and marketing are parts of the business needing daily maintenance and attention. The best part of it all – the MUSIC – grows and develops, but the work remains the same: finding/making time to practice, to compose, to listen, to dream and imagine…

How many weeks a year are you on tour – and away from home?

I don’t really keep count of the weeks I’m away on tour, but it has steadily increased over the years. 2018 was especially hectic and crazy, so I don’t feel quite ready for 2019…I need about 2 weeks to catch up! I do hope to start scheduling in short periodic breaks this new year – it’s very hard to “stop” as a self-employed musician as I love playing and touring and working. But I increasingly realize that rest is necessary and very beneficial for one’s health – physically, mentally/spiritually, and musically!

What is your relationship to Switzerland in general – and to Berne in particular?

I love Marian’s Jazzroom, Berne, and Switzerland (one of the most beautiful places in the world)! There are a lot of “firsts” for me in relationship to Berne: it is one of the first international cities I traveled to as a young jazz musician, where I first played at Marian’s as a member of Clark Terry’s last big band (I think it was in 2003…or 2004?) – the “Young Titans of Jazz”. It was the first time the band played together, but it ended up being such a special week Clark released a recording of the gig! I also returned to Marian’s playing duo with Clark alongside some of my favorite pianists today – Cyrus Chestnut, Benny Green, Gerald Clayton, and the late Mulgrew Miller. I have presented my own trio and a quartet on other occasions.  Some of my most profound learning experiences in jazz happened on the Marian’s Jazzroom stage – so it will always have a special place in my heart. I appreciate the increasingly rare opportunity to play 5 nights in a row, to really dig into the music, experiment, and creatively stretch with my colleagues. I also love exploring the streets of Bern, admiring the bears, the clocks, sampling the chocolate, and meeting up for coffee/tea with lovely Berne residents who have come to be friends. Playing Marian’s Jazzroom is one of my favorite gigs in the world and I’m very excited to play there again in February!

Internationales Jazzfestival Bern

Während 10 Wochen treten im Marians Jazzroom Topstars auf. Genauso wie vor ihnen B.B. King, Michel Camilo, Oscar Peterson, Fats Domino, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald und Etta James. Musikstudenten aus der Schweiz und den USA erhalten im Jazzzelt eine Plattform.
Das 44. Internationale Jazzfestival Bern findet vom 12.03. – 18.05.2019 statt.