“Ms. Shyu is among New York’s most invigorating vocal presences. And perhaps the most enigmatic.” Larry Blumenfeld, The Wall Street Journal
“There have been vocal-and-bass albums, but none have sounded like this… her intervallic leaps tug on the ear and reward a deep listen to this challenging set.” - Mike Shanley, Jazz Times
“The pair find a wealth of colors and moods within the seemingly limited palette of voice and bass… The vocalist’s control is remarkable.” ★★★★ Shaun Brady, DownBeat
Synastry is a partnership between the ground breaking vocalist Jen Shyu and master bassist Mark Dresser that demonstrates new possibilities for vocal and bass improvisation. Together they achieve a remarkable chemistry, evoking a range of emotions from plaintively wistful to emotionally intense, with lyrical imagery that is fantastically surreal. A member since 2003 of influential saxophonist Steve Coleman's band Five Elements, Shyu is well known for her tonally exacting and rhythmically incisive singing. On Synastry, accompanied only by Dresser's acoustic bass, her voice is thrown into stark relief, giving full evidence to her complete control of microtonal shadings, her deep sense of rhythm, and highly developed ear for lyrical and melodic improvisation. In addition to English and Chinese, she sings in a wholly improvised vocalese that utilizes phonemes derived from her fluency of seven different languages learned through her research of indigenous music in Indonesia, East Timor, China, Taiwan, Brazil and Cuba. Dresser, who is well known for using extended technique to tap the full sonic potential of the acoustic bass, envelops Shyu's voice in an aura of intimate mystery.
Both Shyu and Dresser bring cutting-edge technique along with a wealth of imagination and creativity along with an unwillingness to settle for easy moves. You can't tell Shyu that she shouldn't challenge herself to sing with the same attention to harmonic movement, rhythmic assurance and pitch precision as master instrumentalists any more than you can tell Dresser to just play walking bass lines. Together they demonstrate that jazz singing doesn't have to be trapped in a world of musty clichés; that there exists an exciting new path to the future of this art form.