Join us for a conversation between award-winning pianist and entrepreneur JY Song and one of jazz's most valuable and enduring sidemen, bassist and composer Buster Williams, both College of Performing Arts faculty members.
One of jazz's most valuable and enduring sidemen, bassist and composer Buster Williams has flourished through many periods of changing fashions in jazz due to his fat, authoritative, dark tone and highly refined technique on the acoustic bass. Though he began his recording career in the early 1960s with Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, Sarah Vaughan, Jack Wilson, and the Jazz Crusaders, his earliest celebrity was as a member of Herbie Hancock's exploratory Mwandishi Sextet from 1969 to 1973, doubling on acoustic and electric basses -- sometimes attached to electronic effects devices. He began recording as a leader with a trilogy of albums on Muse Records in the mid-'70s. Of these, his leader debut, Pinnacle, is widely considered a modern jazz masterpiece. Since that time, his leader dates have been sporadic, but his career as a sideman has flourished. His notable achievements include appearances as a member of Sphere for 1982's Four in One, and later in the decade as a member of pianist Kenny Barron's trio. In the 21st century, Williams in addition to working in Denny Zeitlin's and Lenny White's groups, the bassist released the celebrated Griot Liberte in 2004 with White on drums and Stefon Harris on piano and marimba. After a six-year break from recording (2009-2017) while he focused on working as an instructor and touring musician, he returned to tape as a member of Cyrus Chestnut's studio band on There's a Sweet, Sweet Spirit before resuming his own career as a leader with Audacity the following year.
A brilliant musician, J.Y. Song brings a unique personality and background to her career as a pianist. Born in Taiwan and raised in Switzerland and the United States, J.Y. Song has combined her cross-cultural perspectives with a voracious curiosity that spans multiple disciplines: music, science, and entrepreneurship. Since her Lincoln Center recital debut, she has been noted for her varied programming and idiosyncratic musical tastes, and has developed a reputation as a skilled, inspiring pedagogue. In exploring entrepreneurial opportunities in music, she recently founded an online education platform, tonerow.com, bringing together world-class music faculty and talent across the globe.
Critic Harris Goldsmith commented on her “truly astounding technical and imaginative resources,” and described her performances as “tigerishly intense” and “exquisite.” Numerous awards include the Pro Musicis International Award, the $25,000 Christel Award from the American Pianists Association, the distinction of Pro Piano Artist of the Year, the Sudler Prize for outstanding achievement in the arts from Stanford University, and the Petschek Award, Juilliard’s highest honor awarded to a pianist. J.Y. Song has appeared in concert at Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, and at the Mostly Mozart Festival in Avery Fisher Hall; at the Théâtre de l’Athénée and Salle Cortot in Paris; at the National Gallery and Kennedy Center; and at Taipei National Concert Hall. She performed the Mexican premiere of Clara Schumann’s piano concerto on four days’ notice.
J.Y. Song’s recordings on the Pro Piano label have received rave reviews. Her recording of Debussy Etudes was distinguished with a Diapason d’Or and designated a “Desert Island Selection” by Gramophone’s International Piano Quarterly. In addition to providing insightful reinterpretations of traditional repertoire, J.Y. Song has been an advocate of new music, recording works by Ezequiel Viñao and Jiang Wen Ye. This last recording inspired the celebrated director Hou Hsiao-Hsien in making his film Café Lumière, which was nominated for a Lion d’Or at the Venice Film Festival.
J.Y. Song has served for eight years as artistic director of the EAMA and Classics Abroad piano programs at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris. She has taught piano at Oberlin Conservatory and given master classes in France, Taiwan, and the United States, including the Chautauqua Institute. She studied at the Conservatoire de Genève and the Conservatoire de Lausanne with Alexei Golovin, Edouardo Vercelli, and Jean-François Antonioli, and at The Juilliard School with Jerome Lowenthal. Currently J.Y. Song is on the piano faculty of Mannes School of Music and teaches Leadership & Innovation at The Juilliard School.