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Jen Shyu

New York City, NY         

Born from Taiwanese and East Timorese immigrant parents, 2016 Doris Duke Artist Jen Shyu (Chinese name: 徐秋雁) is an experimental jazz vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, producer, and Fulbright scholar. Known mostly for her virtuosic singing with saxophonist and 2014 MacArthur Genius Fellow Steve Coleman since 2003 and having collaborated with innovators Anthony Braxton, Bobby Previte, Chris Potter, Michael Formanek, and David Binney to name a few, she has performed her own music around the world in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rubin Museum of Art, Ringling International Arts Festival, Asia Society, Roulette, Blue Note, Bimhuis, Salihara Theater, National Gugak Center, and National Theater of Korea and festivals around the world.

A Stanford University graduate in opera with classical violin and ballet training, Jen had already won many piano competitions and played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bb Minor, 3rd Movement, with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra by the age of 13. She has also studied traditional music and dance in Cuba, Taiwan, Brazil, China, South Korea, East Timor, and Indonesia, extensive research which in 2014 culminated into Solo Rites: Seven Breaths, directed by renowned Indonesian filmmaker Garin Nugroho. Shyu has won commissions and support from the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards (2016 Doris Duke Artist Award and 2014 Doris Duke Impact Award), MAP Fund, Jerome Foundation, Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works, New Music USA, Jazz Gallery, and Roulette, as well as fellowships from Asian Cultural Council, Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Korean Ministry of Sports, Culture, and Tourism.

Jen has produced six albums as a leader, including Synastry (Pi 2011) with co-bandleader and bassist Mark Dresser, which made her the first female artist and vocalist as bandleader on Pi Recordings; and most recently the critically acclaimed album Sounds and Cries of the World (Pi 2015), which landed on many “Top 10 Best Albums of 2015” lists, including the New York Times and The Nation. It features her band Jade Tongue currently comprised of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, violist Mat Maneri, bassist Thomas Morgan, and drummer Dan Weiss. Ben Ratliff of the New York Times calls it her “latest and best album” as well as calling her concerts “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.” Larry Blumenfeld writes in the Wall Street Journal, “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.”

Jen is currently based in New York City, touring with Jade Tongue and performing Solo Rites: Seven Breaths in the US and abroad. In March 2016, she premiered Song of Silver Geese, a multilingual, ritual music drama composed for her band Jade Tongue, dancer Satoshi Haga, and Mivos Quartet at Roulette. She is currently working on this and her next solo work, which will result in a United States 50-state “Songs of the World Now (SOWN)” tour in collaboration again with director Garin Nugroho.



Solo Rites: Seven Breaths: Highlights & Roulette TV interview (2014)

Directed by famed Indonesian film & stage director Garin Nugroho. Jen Shyu’s solo performance — that of a woman living simultaneously in multiple cultures, “projecting her ancestry” through contemporary monologue — reveals a personal journey of loss and redemption made universal through the exploration of hardships that plagues our modern world: loss of tradition, habitat, public spaces. Sonic, visual, and visceral rites and reflections are discovered by pilgrimage through Taiwan, East Timor, Indonesia, Vietnam, & South Korea.

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Cry of the Nomad: Commissioned by Roulette with funds from Jerome Foundation (2008)

Physical helplessness, spiritual displacement. This piece connects the characters of Shyu’s late Taiwanese grandfather born in 1914 with Lady Wen-chi, a princess abducted by nomads from her Han Dynasty kingdom in 195 A.D, bringing to life a 14th-century handscroll painted with poetry by Liu Shang illustrating her story; & intertwines it with a man’s 20th-century life culminating in spiritual quest. Shyu,music,voice,dance/ Satoshi Haga, dance/ Jennifer Choi, violin/ Rubin Kodheli,cello/ Mat Maneri, viola/ Thomas Morgan, bass/Miles Okazaki,guitar

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Raging Waters, Red Sands: Highlights from Jazz Gallery commission & premiere 2009 (Jerome Foundation)

Based on the 1st emperor of China, Da Yu, who must choose between saving his villagers from the flooding waters or being loyal to his wife and yet unborn son. Notions of love, existence, & universal vs. personal obligation are tested in this modern myth based on the ancient narrative form called Shuo-chang (“speak-sing”), mixing Portuguese, Tetum, Taiwanese, & Mandarin with voice (Shyu, composer), dance (Satoshi Haga), viola (Mat Maneri), clarinet (Ivan Barenboim), vibraphone, percussion (Satoshi Takeishi), poetry by Patrícia Magalhães(Brazil).

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