BIOG R A P H Y
“Fearlessly eclectic, soulful, smart … [Annie] Chen is somebody to keep your eye on” — New York Music Daily
Vocalist, composer, and bandleader Annie Chen was born in Beijing and began studying piano at the Central Conservatory of Music from age four. Her passion for music led her to study privately with Nancy Marano (Manhattan School of Music), followed by graduate studies at Queens College, where she studied voice with Charenée Wade, jazz improvisation with Antonio Hart and David Berkman, and composition and arranging with Michael Philip Mossman.
Her début album, Pisces the Dreamer (2014), features Chen as both a deft vocalist and a skilled composer for sextet, revealing a cohesive musical vision that integrates her influences from across traditional Chinese, Western classical, gospel, Middle Eastern, Eastern European and alternative rock music. The album also showcases her memorable interpretations of classics such as “Bésame Mucho” and “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.” Chen celebrated the release of this album as part of the New York Blue Note Jazz Festival in June 2014.
Chen has been based in New York City since 2013 and has led performances with her ensembles, including her sextet and more recently octet, at Flushing Town Hall, Cornelia Street Cafe, ShapeShifter Lab, Club Bonafide, Nublu, DROM, Tomi Jazz and many others. Prior to moving to the city, Chen had been among the foremost vocalists on the jazz, soul, and funk scenes in China for over a decade; she was lead singer and vocalist in the bands Blues Driver, Big John and Black Hot Pisces, as well as the leader of the Soul Decree Funk Big Band, the only funk large ensemble in China.
She has performed at major festivals across the country—including the Solana Summertime Festival, Chaoyang Music Festival, Beijing Nine-Gates Jazz Festival, CD Jazz Week, and the Shanghai International Jazz Festival (JZ Festival)—and at venues such as Blue Note Beijing, Guangzhou Xinghai Concert Hall, East Shore Jazz Club, DDC, JiangHu, and JZ Club Shanghai and Hangzhou, where she led her quintet over a three-month residency in spring 2015, fall 2016 and spring 2018.
Chen’s second album, Secret Treetop, features an entirely new set of compositions for octet and was released in May 2018 (China) and Nov.2018 (U.S). Chen wrote the music for Secret Treetop over three years, performing and refining the materials around New York with the same tightly-knit group of musicians: Tomoko Omura (violin), Alex LoRe (alto saxophone/flute), David Smith (trumpet), Rafal Sarnecki (guitar), Glenn Zaleski (piano), Mat Muntz (bass), and Jerad Lippi (drums). The album serves as a milestone in Chen’s artistic development, encompassing her experiences in New York City over the past several years while also showing her ability to compose music with both compositional sophistication and emotional directness.