Vocalist Jen Shyu and master bassist Mark Dresser in a duo exploring opportunities for space and sound, texture and styles, through informed songs that include texts by Li Po and Ge Hong.
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Label: Pi Recordings
Catalog ID: PI 39
Squidco Product Code: 15000
Recorded on April 12th, 2010 and May 17th, 2009 at University of California, San Diego by Tom Erbe.
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• Show Bio for Jen Shyu
"Jen Shyu ("Shyu" pronounced "Shoe" in English, Chinese name: 徐秋雁, Pinyin: Xúqiūyàn) is a groundbreaking, multilingual vocalist, composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, 2016 Doris Duke Artist, and was voted 2017 Downbeat Critics Poll Rising Star Female Vocalist. Born in Peoria, Illinois, to Taiwanese and East Timorese immigrant parents, Shyu is widely regarded for her virtuosic singing and riveting stage presence, carving out her own beyond-category space in the art world. She has performed with saxophonist and 2014 MacArthur Fellow Steve Coleman since 2003 and has collaborated with such musical innovators as Nicole Mitchell, Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Vijay Iyer, Bobby Previte, Chris Potter, Michael Formanek and David Binney. Shyu has performed her own music on prestigious world stages such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rubin Museum of Art, Ringling International Arts Festival, Asia Society, Roulette, Blue Note, Bimhuis, Salihara Theater, National Gugak Center, National Theater of Korea and at festivals worldwide.
A Stanford University graduate in opera with classical violin and ballet training, Shyu had already won many piano competitions and performed the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto (3rd mvmt.) with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra by the age of 13. She has studied traditional music and dance in Cuba, Taiwan, Brazil, China, South Korea, East Timor and Indonesia, conducting extensive research which culminated in her 2014 stage production Solo Rites: Seven Breaths, directed by renowned Indonesian filmmaker Garin Nugroho. Shyu has won commissions and support from Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards, MAP Fund, Jerome Foundation, Chamber Music America's New Jazz Works, New Music USA, Jazz Gallery, and Roulette, as well as fellowships from the Fulbright Scholar Program, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, Hermitage Artist Retreat, Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Korean Ministry of Sports, Culture, and Tourism.
Shyu has produced seven albums as a leader, including the first female-led and vocalist-led album Pi Recordings has released, Synastry (Pi 2011), with co-bandleader and bassist Mark Dresser. Her critically acclaimed Sounds and Cries of the World (Pi 2015) landed on many best-of-2015 lists, including those of The New York Times, The Nation, and NPR. Her latest album Song of Silver Geese (Pi 2017) is receiving rave reviews and was also included on The New York Times' Best Albums of 2017.
Even with the acclaim she has received for her recordings, Shyu is just as renowned for her dynamic performances. Ben Ratliff wrote in The New York Times that her concerts are "the most arresting performances I've seen over the past five years. It's not just the meticulous preparation of the work and the range of its reference, but its flexibility: She seems open, instinctual, almost fearless." Her duo performance with Tyshawn Sorey was among The New York Times' Best Live Jazz Performances of 2017. Larry Blumenfeld wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "her voice, a wonder of technical control and unrestrained emotion, tells a story dotted with well-researched facts and wild poetic allusions. She claims both as her truths."
Currently based in New York City, Shyu premiered her latest solo work Nine Doors at National Sawdust June 29, 2017, kicking off a 50-state U.S. tour of "Songs of Our World Now / Songs Everyone Writes Now (SOWN/SEWN)," planting seeds of creativity and threading communities together through art."-Jen Shyu Website (http://www.jenshyu.com/bio.html)
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• Show Bio for Mark Dresser
Mark Dresser is a Grammy nominated, internationally renowned bass player, improviser, composer, and interdisciplinary collaborator. At the core of his music is an artistic obsession and commitment to expanding the sonic, musical, and expressive possibilities of the contrabass. He has recorded over one hundred thirty CDs including three solo CDs and a DVD. From 1985 to 1994, he was a member of Anthony Braxton's Quartet, which recorded nine CDs and was the subject of Graham Locke's book Forces in Motion (Da Capo). He has also performed and recorded music of Ray Anderson, Jane Ira Bloom, Tim Berne, Anthony Davis, Dave Douglas, Osvaldo Golijov, Gerry Hemingway, Bob Ostertag, Joe Lovano, Roger Reynolds, Henry Threadgill, Dawn Upshaw, John Zorn. Dresser most recent and internationally acclaimed new music for jazz quintet, Nourishments (2013) his latest CD (Clean Feed) marks his re-immersion as a bandleader. Since 2007 he has been deeply involved in telematic music performance and education. He was awarded a 2015 Shifting Foundation Award and 2015 Doris Duke Impact Award. He is Professor of Music at University of California, San Diego.- Website (https://www.mark-dresser.com/bio)
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1. Slope A Dope 5:23
2. Midnight Of Quietness, Recover Of Life 2:06
3. Mauger Time 5:51
4. Synastry 7:15
5. Floods, Flames, Blades 4:53
6. Mattress On A Stick 2:48
7. Chant For Theresa Hak Kyung Cha 8:14
8. Lunation 5:30
9. Kind Of Nine 4:56
10. Telemotions 7:06
11. Night Thoughts 4:43
sample the album:
"Synastry is a partnership between the ground breaking vocalist Jen Shyu and master bassist Mark Dresser that demonstrates new possibilities for vocal and bass improvisation. They reveal a remarkable chemistry together, evoking a range of emotions from plaintively wistful to emotionally intense, with lyrical imagery that is fantastically surreal. A member since 2003 of influential saxophonist Steve Coleman's band Five Elements, Shyu is well known for her tonally exacting and rhythmically incisive singing. On Synastry, accompanied only by Dresser's acoustic bass, her voice is thrown into stark relief, giving full evidence to her complete control of microtonal shadings, her deep sense of rhythm, and highly developed ear for lyrical and melodic improvisation. In addition to English and Chinese, she sings in a wholly improvised vocalese that utilizes phonemes derived from her fluency of seven different languages learned through her research of indigenous music in Indonesia, East Timor, China, Taiwan, Brazil and Cuba. Dresser, who is well known for using extended technique to tap the full sonic potential of the acoustic bass, envelops Shyu's voice in an aura of intimate mystery.
What makes Synastry special is the musical cohesion between Shyu and Dresser. Shyu says of their partnership: "When Mark and I did our first session, we found that it opened so many new opportunities for space and sound exploration that we never felt the need to include other instruments. Together we really push the possibilities of each of our instruments, exposing their full range in texture and musical function in a way that we feel is unique in the lineage of voice and bass duos."
A central figure in avant garde jazz for more than three decades, Dresser has appeared on over 130 albums including nearly 30 as leader or co-leader. He has recorded and performed with Anthony Braxton, Tim Berne, Anthony Davis, Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, Roswell Rudd, Henry Threadgill, Dawn Upshaw, John Zorn and many others. He's currently in the cooperative group Trio M with pianist Myra Melford and drummer Matt Wilson. Dresser contributes five of the eleven compositions on Synastry. Just as important, he brings with him virtuoso technique and the imagination to put it all to work. Not content just to provide support, Dresser constantly varies his attack, often quick-changing between arco and pizzicato while paying constant attention to texture, timbre and dynamics. Shyu said of Dresser: "His musical vocabulary is huge and his entire range is developed. He plays with such a vast palette of colors that it pushes me to do the same with my voice. Every gesture of his is so evocative that it is very easy to go beyond the usual elements of music making with him. When singing with Mark, I feel like I am both falling inward into the sound and exploding outward from it simultaneously." For an example, listen to "Chant for Theresa Hak Kyung Cha" for how he continuously shifts between earthy rumbles and soft whispers to evoke the words like "stone," "dust," "powder," "sediment," and" moisture" and brings aural color to "dark," "blue-black," "pale," "luminant," and "stillness" found in Cha's text.
A child prodigy on the violin and piano, Shyu was accomplished enough to place sixth at the Stravinsky International Piano Competition at the age of 11. She also studied ballet and theater and later majored in classical voice at Stanford University. She sings in multiple languages, including English, Portuguese, Spanish, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Tetum, and Pinuyumayan (a Taiwanese indigenous language). She also regularly accompanies herself on piano; erhu, a Chinese spike fiddle; Taiwanese moon lute; and East Timorese lakado.
Rather than pursuing the traditional path for a jazz singer, Shyu is seeking her own way, fearlessly using her prodigious technique to create art with no limits with regard to musical genre. Though grounded in classical, opera and jazz training, her overarching goal is to carve out new improvisational terrain for the voice through integrating traditional and indigenous music discovered through rigorous research and fieldwork. Her research trips have taken her to Cuba to study traditional dance and music; Taiwan, her father's homeland, where she studied Hengchun minyao, an indigenous folk music; China where she researched shuochang, a form of narrative performance that involves a combination of singing and speaking; and East Timor to research and document the music of her mother's birthplace. All this while an integral member of Steve Coleman and Five Elements, appearing most recently on the critically lauded release Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi, 2010) and the upcoming The Mancy of Sound (Pi, 2011). True to form, just as she is finding wider recognition, she will be spending the next year in Solo, Indonesia on a Fulbright Scholarship to study sindhenan, the traditional singing of Javanese gamelan music.
Dresser said about Shyu: "Working with Jen is not like working with a singer; it is more like working with one of the top players on the scene who happens to sing; her musicianship is incredible and her improvisational ability so highly developed. She is also a musical scholar in the best sense of the word." Steve Coleman said: "She is a case study for substance over appearance. When most musicians, particularly singers, would be focusing on career moves, Jen is taking the time in the prime of her life to do musical, personal and cultural research, and to develop the kinds of understanding and tools that she will be able to use for the rest of her life."
Jen Shyu is the first woman and first vocalist, and Mark Dresser the first bassist to record as a leader on Pi for good reason. They both bring cutting-edge technique along with a wealth of imagination and creativity along with an unwillingness to settle for easy moves. You can't tell Shyu that she shouldn't challenge herself to sing with the same attention to harmonic movement, rhythmic assurance and pitch precision as master instrumentalists any more than you can tell Dresser to just play walking bass lines. Together they demonstrate that jazz singing doesn't have to be trapped in a world of musty clichés; that there exists an exciting new path to the future of this art form."-Pi Recordings
NY Downtown & Jazz/Improv