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ClassicsOnline Home » CION, Sarah Jane: Moon Song
By Nate Guidry
Sarah Jane Cion demonstrates throughout Moon Song, her second CD, that she is one of the most poetic young pianists in jazz.
"Sarah represents something very honest and fresh," said producer Steve Getz, who is son of the late saxophonist Stan Getz. "We need people like her in this business. She is extremely lyrical and has a formidable technique."
The recording on the Naxos Jazz label spotlights seven originals from the 33-year-old Cion, Johnny Mandel's "Moon Song" and a solo piano medley that captures the essence of everyone from George Gershwin to Bud Powell. Cion, a graduate of New England Conservatory, has taken the vocabulary of pianists Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson and Wynton Kelly and melded it into her own language; one that combines aggression with sensitivity and tradition with exploration.
"I've always had extremely high standards," Cion said from her home in the Bronx, N.Y. "These musicians were some of the best at their craft. I'm trying to emulate that."
She's on her way. In November, Cion won the Great American Jazz Piano Competition, an annual event in Saratoga, Fla. The judges were pianists Horace Silver, Kenny Barron and Ellis Marsalis.
"It was truly an honor for me to win the competition," Cion said, still in disbelief. "I decided to go there and relax and just focus on my music. I guess the judges enjoyed my performance."
What comes through whether in live or recorded performances is a penetrating honesty. It permeates Moon Song, on which Cion combines vivid textures into a seamless tapestry. Her choice of bandmates certainly doesn't hurt the project either. The great drummer Billy Hart is here, as is Chris Potter, one of the most sought-after players in jazz, on two cuts. The bass player, Phil Palombi, is Cion's husband.
All are paragons of dependability, impeccable in support and economical in their soloing. After the thoughtful, intensely meditative "A Pond Beneath the Moon," the players stretch out on Cion's "Last Cha-Cha in Longbeach."Potter plays with a cheerful disposition on "Suncycle," and he's at his lyrical best on "Moon Song," a wonderful version of a familiar song.The internal logic and exacting simplicity of "Blues for Chick" offer excellent examples of Cion's expansive ability. "How Long Has This Been Going On" is conceptually rich and reflects the groups attention to compositional detail.Though Cion is proud of her 1998 CD Indeed, she said, "I really wanted Moon Song to be my first statement. I'm excited about the recording. People will get to hear my compositions and come to understand my sound and my style."
By Kevin Chan
New England-native Sarah Jane Cion's career may be young but she has already demonstrated the chops of a seasoned piano player. Tasteful, rhythmic and lyrical, Cion has both range and maturity on Moon Song, her Naxos Jazz release.
This is her second full-length album after the debut of her independent Indeed!. Whether it's the gentle stroll of "A Pond Beneath The Moon" or the Latin charge of "Samba Picara", Cion shows dynamic abilities. Aided on several tracks by Grammy-nominated (for 1999 Best Jazz Instrumental Solo) Chris Potter's wonderfully warm tone on tenor saxophone, Cion deftly goes from strength to strength.
Of the compositions on Moon Song, Cion also shows her compositions prowess writing seven of the tracks. Upbeat and spirited one minute, reflective and intuitive the next. Closing out her record with a solo medley, Cion shows she needs no accompaniment to be expressive and musical. And more than a player, the mostly self-composed recording reveals her strong sense of melody.
A 1990 graduate of New England Conservatory with honors and distinction, Cion is one of the most talented young new American pianists to arrive in years. She has already toured internationally across Germany, Israel, Portugal, Japan and America. She was the winner of the 17th annual Great American Jazz Piano Competition judged by greats like Kenny Barron, Benny Green, Horace Silver and Ellis Marsalis Jr in 1999. In addition, her stylish playing and personality makes her a talent to watch.
Growing up, Cion was already playing ragtime on the piano at the age of seven and studied classical until 14. Cion was a Boston Jazz Society Award recipient in 1988 and has received three consecutive National Endowment for the Arts study grants. In 1991, she moved to New York City in 1991. She has performed with Clark Terry, Don Braden, Santi Debriano, Ron McClure and Lonnie Plaxico. Cion is married to Moon Song's bassist Phil Palombi.
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CION, Sarah Jane: Moon Song