Judy Niemack: Beautiful Love

Niemack is a singer's singer who has never quite achieved the name recognition she deserves. Her formal training, plus private lessons with Warne Marsh, gave her a foundation from which to develop a technically flawless and adventurous style. Her warm, clear, and powerful voice, and improvisational (scatting) and composing abilities comprise elements of a complete jazz musician who just happens to use her voice as primary instrument or means of expression. Those who may remember her 1989 and 1992 recordings with Cedar Walton (Blue Bop) and Kenny Barron (Heart's Desire), respectively, will be delighted to learn that Niemack is, if anything, better than ever in the year 2009, as shown by her new (and 10th) CD, For the Sundance.

Her duet with bassist Rufus Reid on "Beautiful Love" is a stark, definitive example of what Niemack is all about. Her understated wordless intro is bolstered by Reid's sensitive and continuing commentary. The singer glides seamlessly into the standard's lyrics, her pliant voice shaping each phrase in a fresh and inventive manner. Niemack's scatted solo that follows is made that much more effective by the harmonic base she has established previously in her melodic exposition. She concludes by reexamining the lyrics even more creatively, this time breaking up the tempo and effortlessly revamping the expected phrase lengths in ways that are totally musical and invigorating, and never over the top. This is a masterfully realized duet performance, and essential listening for those already hip--or new to--Judy Niemack.

August 25, 2009 · 0 comments


Steve Kuhn: Beautiful Love

Steve Kuhn was briefly John Coltrane's pianist before McCoy Tyner, and later turned down an offer to join Miles Davis's band. (Kuhn was playing with Stan Getz at the time.) Now, at age 70, he appears to be finally coming into his own as both a player and a talent enjoying well-deserved and long overdue recognition, if the strongly positive reaction to Live at Birdland (2007) and Plays Standards (2008) is any indication.

"Beautiful Love" showcases Kuhn's impressionistic side, always one of his strengths. With his light, burnished touch, he delicately and deliberately interprets the romantic melody, at one point utilizing an exquisite trill that alone attests to his great skill and taste. Also capable of rollicking and adventurous improvisations, Kuhn here simply beguiles us with a more classically rooted, harmonically rich meditation. Williams and Foster are simply along for the ride, wisely ceding the spotlight to Kuhn.

May 08, 2008 · 0 comments


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