aficionados are often concerned with lineages within the music and
the passing of the torch. There aren’t many musicians left who have
witnessed and assisted in the development of jazz and improvised
music as much as saxophonist Lee Konitz has. From the height of bebop
to the current avant-garde, Konitz has established himself as a
cornerstone and link between many adventurous musicians.
such musicians are vocalist extraordinaire Judy Niemack and the
exceptional pianist Dan Tepfer. Both have been fortunate enough to
play and collaborate with the legendary saxophonist. It was only
natural that Niemack and Tepfer would find such a rapport when they
finally met via Konitz. It took the duo no time to be at ease with
each other and to pursue a lively recording, entitled Listening
stands apart as one of her generation’s most celebrated vocalists.
Niemack is originally from California; her jazz studies began with
saxophonist Warne Marsh, who famously studied and performed with
piano polymath Lennie Tristano along with Konitz. Niemack moved to
New York City in the late 1970s and began to make a name as a
vocalist, writing lyrics for and collaborating with many well-known
musicians, including Pat Metheny, Kenny Barron and Konitz.
Tepfer has become an important figure in his generation’s
developments within the worlds of jazz, modern classical and
improvised music. His path within jazz crossed with Konitz very
early on, whereby he established a long-running collaboration with
and Tepfer’s paths finally crossed while Tepfer and Konitz were in
Berlin for a performance. While keeping a home in New York, Niemack
had been teaching for many years at the Jazz Institut Berlin, and she
always made the effort to hear Konitz when he performed nearby,
allowing the singer and the pianist an opportunity to be introduced
in this instance. In the Spring of 2012, Tepfer returned to Berlin
where he met up with Niemack to rehearse at the Jazz Institut.
September 2012, Niemack invited Tepfer to record at Acoustic
Recording in Brooklyn, New York. There was a special emphasis on
improvisation and interpretation during the proceedings, as Niemack
has always advocated the role of the vocalist as a musician. The duo
took on a number of the standards they had rehearsed in Germany,
though maintaining a playfulness throughout the session. Listeners
can hear the incredibly creative treatments from Tepfer and the joy
that both brought to the recording.
program begins with a light but insistent take on Harry Warren and
Mack Gordon’s “There Will Never Be Another You.” Konitz’s
“Listening To You” is based on the chord changes of “All The
Things You Are” and features lyrics Niemack wrote at the
saxophonist’s request, which she turned into a tribute to Konitz.
Tepfer and Niemack perform a lilting version of the chestnut “Body
and Soul,” which is followed by “Like a Butterfly,” a piece
written by her friend, pianist Ronnie Mathews, her original lyrics
describe the carefree dancing of a young girl whose responsibilities
are yet to come.
bittersweet “You’ve Taken Things Too Far” is about taking stock
after the dissolution of a relationship and coming to unexpected
realizations about love. “When Chick Came Around” is another
composition by Konitz with lyrics by Niemack that heralds the work of
the great pianist Chick Corea. Niemack revisits Gorney and Clare’s
“You’re My Thrill,” having originally recorded it with Cedar
Walton on her first recording, here with pathos and drama. The
extemporary version of Monk and Clarke’s “Epistrophy” is a true
revelation and testament to the duo’s singularity. The program
concludes with Kern’s “All The Things You Are,” a beautiful
better to celebrate one of the most creative and exploratory
musicians jazz has been blessed with? Niemack and Tepfer are two
exemplary musicians regardless of instrument, who find a way to make
music resonate and creativity to blossom, as their hero Lee Konitz
has done for decades. Listening
is a wonderful example of the legacy being passed and beauty being
made in its honor.