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Nate Guidry, April 2000

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."

Kevin Chan
HK Magazine, March 2000

"Amidst the pressures on musicians to focus solely on technical proficiency, it is refreshing to listen to a recording by Sarah Jane Cion. A graduate of the New England Conservatory in both composition and performance, Cion composed all but three of the jazz pieces on Moon Song, her latest effort. The recording has a fine mix of slower, lounge-y music and faster-paced, rhythmic pieces. "Suncycle" opens with a solo piano setting in a dreamy mood, and eventually gives way to a flowing theme on soprano saxophone. "Blues For Chick" is attention-grabbing in its use of the pentatonic scale and its technically challenging passages. Cion rounds out her recording with three standard pieces, including an interpretation of Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On?" which helped her nab the top prize at the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. Naxos Jazz, Cion's recording label, has been described as "a label where one can hear the very best emerging artists on the contemporary scene" This is certainly true in Cion's case."

David Lych
JazzTimes, December 1999

"Pianist Sarah Jane Cion has developed a solid reputation for herself as a sideman and composer, but now, after finishing her second release, Moon Song, on the Naxos Jazz label, she's focused on her role as a leader and being positioned to express herself "more emotionally and from my heart."

Introduced to jazz at the tender age of 14 by her father, Cion, at his urging, began studying jazz piano in Boston. "The teacher's prerequisite was for me to buy a copy of Kind Of Blue, and when I heard Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, that was it! I knew I had to play that way."

The Evans influence is evident in her playing, and she cites him as her first and deepest influence. "Because I was blessed with a fairly good technique playing classical music as a child, I tend to go for a very crisp style, where every note means a lot to me," she says.

Composing doesn't necessarily come that easy to her, she says, but situations in her life often spark emotional responses that inspire her to write: "Occasionally I'll also write from a technical standpoint - such as Blues For Chick, on the Moon Song release, where I aimed for a specific 'Here he sings, now he sobs' vibe. But most of the time I'm coming from an emotional place, writing about personal experiences."

Joining Cion on the Moon Song trio date is guest artist Chris Potter on tenor and soprano, with Billy hart on drums and Chris Palombi on bass. Her previous release, Indeed!, on CAP Jazz, features Cion in a variety of formats, from graceful solo piano to quintet arrangements, and features Antonio Hart on alto.

As a young player in New York, Cion worked for respect in the jazz community, and her efforts have been successful. Now managed by Steve Getz, son of Stan, Cion was a recent guest on Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, and is looking ahead to the European "Rising Star" tour in February, followed by a busy schedule of concert and club gigs."

The Jazz Report

Cion is a graduate of the New England Conservatory and winner of the 1999 Great American Jazz Piano competition in Jacksonville, Florida. "Moon Song" features several clever pieces with broad harmonies, intricate melodic invention and plenty of samba like rhythms. Cion owes much to Keith Jarrett and Michel Camillio in that she employs many of the same technical devices. A most lyrical presense(sic)!

C. Michael Bailey
All About Jazz

"A New Face on Jazz. Sarah Jane Cion, the conservatory-trained (the New England Conservatory) phenomenon, was awarded First Place in the 1999 Great American Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville Florida. From there she found her way into the arms of Naxos Jazz, which has now produced her first recording as a leader, Moon Song. She is a well-schooled musician (teaching at Tufts) without being academic. Cion has previously recorded with Marian McPartland, Mike Stern, Antonio Hart and Herve Jeanne. On this disc, Cion spends most of her time on her own inventive compositions. Her piano style, wholly her own, contains traces of Toshiko Akioshi and Vince Guaraldi ("A Pond Beneath the Moon"), Herbie Hancock ("Samba Picara"), and Bud Powell ("Blues For Chick"). Cion listened well to those who came before her and forged from them a strong and unique voice. That voice is rhythmically developed and propulsive. Her playing is aggressive without being overtly so. She knows what effect she desires and achieves it with the greatest efficiency and grace.

Joining Cion is Saxophonist Chris Potter playing a virile tenor saxophone on "Moon Song" and a pensive soprano on "Suncycle". Bassist Phil Palombi and Drummer Billy Hart round out the piano trio, providing crisp and crystalline accompaniment. Cion allows the whole band to solo with Palombi smoking through the disc opener and Hart displaying his considerable chops all over the place. Balladmeister Fred Hersch used the word "powerful" to describe Sarah Jane Cion's playing. I think that sums up both her performance and compositional skills. This critic eagerly awaits the next Sarah Jane Cion offering."

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