Helen Sung: Willow Weep for Me


Willow Weep for Me


Helen Sung (piano)


Helenistique (Fresh Sound New Talent 251)

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Helen Sung (piano), Lewis Nash (drums),

Derrick Hodge (bass)


Composed by Ann Ronell


Recorded: Brooklyn, August 18, 2005


Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

I was once teaching some student musicians how to play a medium-groove song, when one of them, a twenty-something saxophonist, walked away in despair. This young musician, a devotee of the School of Coltrane, declared: "To play this song, I need to do something tasty. And I don't know how to play tasty."

Let me tell you about pianist Helen Sung, she definitely knows how to play tasty. Every little lick and aside, all the dynamic shifts and interjected chords, are loose and swinging and oh-so-right. She reminds me of Ray Bryant or Wynton Kelly, those masters of the subtle groove, who never waste a phrase and can deliver a C7 chord that almost forces you to gyrate your hips at least a little bit in response. "Willow Weep for Me" has been played by so many pianists over the years, and the classic versions encompass everything from Bud Powell's grit to Art Tatum's grandeur. Ms. Sung choruses won't dislodge these icons from the pantheon, but (as Garrison Keillor says apropos of Powder Milk Biscuits™) heavens, they're tasty.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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