Jen Shyu is always on the move: leading her own projects, lending her voice to others’, performing in inter/cross-disciplinary contexts, engaging in research abroad. Ben Ratliff of The New York Times writes, “Instead of thinking about [Jen] categorically, you can focus on how beautifully and generously she uses sound.” Read her biography and you’ll quickly realize that she is a force to be reckoned with. Steve Coleman, David Binney and Taylor Ho Bynum are frequent collaborators, and on Thursday, Jen heads out on the road with bassist Mark Dresser to celebrate the release of their duo CD, “Synastry,” available now on Pi Recordings. I recommend catching one of their performances this month, as Jen will soon depart for Solo, Indonesia, where she will spend the next year studying sindhenan, the traditional singing of Javanese gamelan music, on a Fulbright Scholarship.
What releases or upcoming events do you have on the horizon?
Bassist Mark Dresser and I are thrilled to release “Synastry,” a duo album for voice and bass, culminating in our New York City CD release concert at the Jazz Gallery Friday, September 16, 9pm. Leading up to this concert are CD release concerts September 8 in Los Angeles (Blue Whale), September 10 in Buffalo (Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center), September 11 in Accord, NY (Nancy Ostrovsky‘s home), September 13 in New Haven (The Big Room), September 14 in Philadelphia (Ars Nova Workshop), and September 15 in Baltimore (Windup Space). I then leave September 23 for Indonesia on a Fulbright research scholarship, so the Jazz Gallery concert will be a farewell party as well. Our collaboration makes Mark the first bassist and myself the first female and first vocalist to record on Pi Recordings as leaders, so we are excited.
How has working with Anthony Braxton shaped your musical experience?
Mark has worked with Anthony Braxton extensively, and my recent experience with Anthony’s music has had a deep impact on how I think about improvisation and composition. His concepts, energy, true love and passion that he infuses into his music and music making process have been completely inspiring; he as a mentor is so encouraging and empowering. Anthony has pushed me to become more articulate about my work and to challenge my own notions of music making in this universe.
What impact has the Tri-Centric Orchestra had on your concept of the orchestra as an entity?
The Tri-Centric Orchestra experience has been very powerful – the first impression of having Anthony direct us was realizing how precise the music is, yet how much one’s own intent, energy and personality is as important or almost more important – that one’s vibe and vibration is what carries the music and delivers it to the people. The precision is only a given, the first step. It is this perfect marriage that makes the music so powerful, challenging and a joy to make.
What are you currently listening to?
I was recently turned onto the Norwegian Modern psyche/rock trio VIRUS – love it!
What’s your favorite food?
It’s a competition between Samoas (yes, the Girl Scout cookie) and my mom’s sweet tarot root soup….