By Fred Bouchard | Published November 2018
Trust Judy Niemack to banish blues, blahs and social despair. Sounding fresh as her debut with Warne Marsh in 1978, this sunny vocalist of pinpoint articulation, exuberant scat and riveting vocalese soars from aerie to peak on Jim McNeely’s catchy charts, brimming with vitality and subtle quotes, all navigated with cool aplomb by the Danish Radio Big Band. This singer’s singer flies with boundless joy in cozy unison with reeds or trumpets, her moods ranging from warmly confiding to radiantly bantered free fours with Hans Ulrik’s tenor and Per Gade’s guitar. She jimmies the DNA of “’Round Midnight” and strikes lightning on the eerily unfolding “Misterioso.” After scatting it for years, she wrote the lyric quickly, but takes her sweet time to lift us into the ozone.
Her luminous lyrics also speak pitch-perfect politically. A post-9/11 rap on Jeanfrançois Prins’ “New York Stories” urges a Jon Hendricks-like wry toughness to beat The Big Apple’s grinding toll. Niemack gamely engages listeners on “Talk Awhile (It’s Just Talk)” with “people coming together, every race and every style” to “find some better way to be free.” A recurring mantra—communicate, don’t confront—extols social outreach (“Straight Up To The Light (Talking To Myself)”) and to end affairs politely.
This date’s torturous odyssey began when McNeely penned this set for Niemack’s 1993 and 2001 gigs with WDR Big Band. Later recorded with Danes, it’s finally released here. Some music is really worth the wait.
New York Stories: New York Stories; Suddenly (In Walked Bud); Talk Awhile (It’s Just Talk); A Crazy Song To Sing (Misterioso); I Should Have Told You Goodbye (Daahoud); Straight Up To The Light (Talking To Myself); Fragile; ‘Round Midnight; It’s Over Now (Well You Needn’t). (74:52)
Personnel: Judy Niemack, vocals; Jim McNeely, arranger, conductor; Anders Gustafsson, Christer Gustafsson, Thomas Kjærgaard, Mads La Cour, Lars Vissing, trumpet; Vincent Nilsson, Steen Nikolaj Hansen, Peter Jensen, Annette Saxe, Jakob Munck Mortensen, trombone; Nicolai Schultz, Peter Fuglsang, Hans Ulrik, Frederick Menzies, Anders Gaardmand, saxophone; Søren Frost, drums; Nikolaj Bentzon, piano; Per Gade, guitar; Kaspar Vadsholt, bass.