Annie Chen is a vocalist, composer, and bandleader from Beijing, based in New York since 2013. Her distinctive style draws on a rich continuum of musical traditions from Asia, Europe, and the Americas. This creative vision – showcased on her releases Pisces the Dreamer (2014), Secret Treetop (2018) and Guardians (2024) – is supported by years of experience in China’s jazz, blues, and funk scenes as well as active study and collaboration within New York’s vibrant jazz community.

As a bandleader and composer, Chen has performed extensively in prestigious NYC venues including the Blue Note, Cornelia St. Cafe, Nublu, Flushing Town Hall, DROM, Shapeshifter Lab, and Club Bonafide. In China, she has brought her music to festivals such as Solana Summertime Festival, Chaoyang Music Festival, Beijing Nine-Gates Jazz Festival, CD Jazz Week, and the Shanghai International Jazz Festival, as well as venues such as Blue Note Beijing, East Shore Jazz Club, DDC, JiangHu, Guangzhou Xinghai Concert Hall and JZ Club Shanghai and Hangzhou. At JZ Club Hangzhou she led a band as artist in residence in 2015, 2016, and 2018.

Chen’s debut release as a leader is Pisces the Dreamer, released in 2014 with a performance at New York’s Blue Note Jazz Festival. The album’s deft traversal of Chinese, Middle-Eastern, Eastern European, and Afro-American musical landscapes has continued in 2018’s follow-up Secret Treetop, praised by Downbeat as “[a] clear-eyed fusion of East and West with an avant-garde twist,” and by New York Music Daily as “Fearlessly eclectic, soulful and smart.” In 2019, Secret Treetop was nominated for Best Vocal Jazz Album by the Chinese Music Industry Committee, an award analogous to a Grammy in the US. Both Pisces the Dreamer and Secret Treetop were reissued on vinyl by Fusion Music in 2019.

Annie’s current focus is her Guardians ensemble, whose self-titled debut released to critical acclaim on February 23, 2024 on JZ Music. Centered on an environmentally themed programmatic suite, the album features a dynamic cast of improvisers including Satoshi Takeishi (percussion), Fung Chern Hwei (violin), Vitor Goncalves (piano/accordion), Alex LoRe (woodwinds), Marius Duboule (guitar), and Mat Muntz (bass). The project combines Annie’s compositional sense of storytelling and imagery with an experimental improvisational vocabulary, representing an exciting new chapter in her creative output. Guardians has been praised as “stunning” by Women in Jazz Media and “present[ing] a clear vision and message” by Jazz in Europe. Writing for Jazzwise, Peter Quinn celebrated the music’s “striking sonorities,… compelling narrative, and Chen’s remarkably expressive voice at its heart…a recording which merits repeated listening to fully absorb its wealth of detail.” In 2024, Annie received a Brooklyn Arts Fund grant to support live performances of Guardians.

A lifelong student of music, Chen began her study of classical piano at the age of four, attending Beijing’s prestigious Central Conservatory of Music. After developing an interest in jazz, she traveled to New York in 2010 to study privately with Nancy Marano at Manhattan School of Music. She later obtained a Master of Music degree from Queens College, where she studied with Charenée Wade, Antonio Hart, David Berkman, and Michael Philip Mossman.

Annie is also an experienced educator, having offered extensive, recurring masterclasses on vocal jazz performance and jazz appreciation as part of her residency in Hangzhou, China. In addition to online private and group lessons, Chen was recently commissioned by Beijing’s Ear King Music Company to produce Jazz Singing Masterclass Vol.1, an educational video series intended for students in China. As part of her mission to forge connections between distant musical worlds, she is also producing JZ Club on Air, a radio show dedicated to exposing Chinese audiences to the diverse and forward-thinking jazz currently emerging from New York.