Bourgie Hall presents

Christine Jensen and Helen Sung

An intimate evening where musical dialogue develops through compositions and improvisations by Montreal-based saxophonist and composer Christine Jensen and New York pianist Helen Sung, two musicians inspired by art and nature.

In connection with the exhibition Parall(elles): A History of Women in Design

Christine Jensen, saxophone

Montreal-based saxophonist and composer Christine Jensen has been described as, “an original voice on the international jazz scene… [and] one of Canada’s most compelling composers,” by Mark Miller of the Globe and Mail. According to Greg Buium of Downbeat Magazine, “Jensen writes in three dimensions, with a quiet kind of authority that makes the many elements cohere. Wayne Shorter, Maria Schneider and Kenny Wheeler come to mind.” After a performance at the 2006 Montreal International Jazz Festival, Scott Yanow wrote, “She’s rapidly developing into a major force … as a player and as a writer.”

Jensen got her first degree from McGill University in jazz performance in 1994. She followed this up by completing her Master’s in Jazz Performance in 2006. Christine has honed her skills as a saxophonist under the tutelage of an impressive list of leading musicians including Pat La Barbera, Kenny Werner, Jim McNeely, Remi Bolduc, Dick Oatts and Steve Wilson. 

As an adjudicator, clinician, and instructor at McGill, she is influencing the next generation of composers and players.  In her travels abroad, she has shared her love of music and invaluable experience with young jazz enthusiasts around the world, from Norway to Peru, Turkey to Montreal, and back home on the West Coast. She has always been active in jazz education, leading clinics and workshops and adjudicating.

Composing has been a constant throughout her career — while she was still an undergrad at McGill, she contributed her compositions to her sister’s debut album, Vernal Fields (Enja Records), which went on to win a Juno Award. This early recognition of her talent as a composer spurred her to keep writing. According to Jensen:

Composing seems to have chosen me, and it’s become a passion to express myself. As
a composer my progress has been steady, which probably differs from a lot of musicians
of my generation who burst out as players first. I’m pretty lucky because composing has
given me long-term growth, while improvising involves seizing the moment. Combining
these two elements is the beauty of being a contemporary jazz artist.

Helen Sung, piano

Helen Sung is an acclaimed jazz pianist and composer, and a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow. A native of Houston, Texas, and graduate of its High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), she eschewed her classical piano upbringing after a jazz epiphany during undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Helen went on to become part of the inaugural class of the Thelonious Monk Institute (now the Herbie Hancock Institute) at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Her newest album Quartet+ (Sunnyside Records), garnered a 4.5 star DownBeat review and inclusion in its “Best of 2021 Albums” list, and a JazzTimes cover story (January 2022 issue), while previous releases Sung With Words (Stricker Street), a collaborative project with renowned poet Dana Gioia, and Anthem For A New Day (Concord Jazz) topped the jazz charts.

In addition to her own band, Helen has performed with such luminaries as the late Clark Terry, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Regina Carter, Terri Lyne Carrington, Cecile McLorin Salvant, and the Mingus Big Band. Recent activities of note include Re-Orientation: Asian American Artists Out Loud (made possible by a Chamber Music America Digital Residency grant): provoked by anti-Asian violence, Helen teamed her quartet with a poet, a hip-hop artist/rapper, and an installation artist in a series of interdisciplinary events to celebrate the range and diversity of Asian American artistry. Helen’s 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship is being applied toward a mutli-movement composition for big band; one of the movements, “Wayne’s World,” won the 2022 BMI Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize.

Helen has served on the jazz faculties of the Berklee College of Music and the Juilliard School. She is currently visiting faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and an Associate Professor at Columbia University, where she also was the inaugural jazz artist-in-residence at its Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute exploring the intersection of jazz and neuroscience.

Thursday, April 13, 2023 at 6:00pm