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Violinist Regina Carter and Pianist Helen Sung

Regina Carter

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Two jazz innovators turn 90 this month, only days apart. Thelonious Monk was born Oct. 10, 1917, in Rocky Mount, N.C. Dizzy Gillespie was born Oct. 21, 1917, in Cheraw, S.C. We start the show with a birthday moment.

An institute in Monk's name finds and trains some of the most promising young musicians out there. Pianist Helen Sung, for example, graduated from the elite Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. This week on JazzSet, she's onstage with her own quartet, then with the acclaimed violinist Regina Carter and Carter's quintet.

Sung thought she wanted to be a classical pianist, but she's spent her years since undergraduate school trying to swing and play the blues. Finally, she says, she's beginning to integrate the different parts of her music. Her latest CD is titled Sungbird.

Although Carter received the prestigious MacArthur Genius Grant for scholars and artists, she is a disarmingly down-to-earth person. Carter loves to laugh, she loves to lead her band and she makes it a pleasure to work with her.

Here at "Starry Nights" at the Rose Center for Earth & Space, the audience is full of children. Carter says that they inspire her, and her set keeps them moving with a lot of dance music. Carter herself started playing as a small child in Detroit, taking Suzuki lessons on a tiny violin. Years later as a young artist, she recorded an album in Genoa, Italy, on a violin that the 19th-century virtuoso Paganini once owned. Very few are permitted to touch or play it.

Her "Black Bottom Dance" is named for the area of Detroit in which her parents used to listen to music. Carter's current CD (featuring a track with Dee Dee Bridgewater) is I'll Be Seeing You - A Sentimental Journey.

"Fast Forward" (Sung)
"Sungbird" (After Albeniz) (Sung)
"Bye-Ya" (Monk)

"Morning of the Carnival" (Luis Bonfa)
"Anitra's Dance" (Edvard Grieg, arr. Carter)
"Black Bottom Dance" (Carter)

Helen Sung, piano
Jaleel Shaw, saxophone
Richie Goods, bass
Quincy Davis, drums

Regina Carter, violin
Anthony Nelson, clarinet
Helen Sung, piano
Matthew Parish, bass
Alvester Garnett, drums

Helen Sung
Regina Carter
American Museum of Natural History: Home of Starry Nights

Thanks to Andrew Rowan, producer of "Starry Nights," the jazz series at the Rose Center for Earth & Space in New York City.

Copyright 2007 NPR