About Time

“About Time” is a labor of love, born from the comingling of diverse musical personalities, reflecting the power of jazz to unify us in the joy of creating together. May this music help prepare the way for peace.

(Judy Niemack)

The title of this CD, About Time, has several meanings. Its dozen selections all have lyrics that deal in one way or another with the subject of time, and the word “time” is part of seven of the song titles. Singer Judy Niemack and her musicians are all experts at utilizing time in their interactions with each other, making every note count. And, since her last record was released in 1996, it is About Time that the talented vocalist has a new recording out!

About Time is different from Ms. Niemack’s previous recordings in that there are no piano or drums to be heard. “I wanted a different sound, more of a chamber/jazz idea,” says the singer. “Also, Jeanfrançois and I are not only husband and wife but musical partners. We wanted to explore the voice and guitar sound.” With Jeanfrançois Prins’ guitar taking a very complimentary role (he also provided the arrangements), bassist Eddie Gomez quiet but stimulating backing, and guest appearances by percussionist Café, vibraphonist David Friedman, and altoist Lee Konitz, this is a particularly rewarding showcase for Judy Niemack.

Speaking of her sideman, Judy says: “In a bass player I look for great intonation, perfect time, and the ability to solo melodically. In this situation, since we were not using a drummer, we wanted a very strong bassist, so we picked Eddie Gomez. He was on my first record, recorded in 1978 with Warne Marsh. We played together in one of Jeremy Steig’s jazz/rock bands in the 1980s but had not worked together since. I originally met Café through Kenny Werner, who recommended him for my CD Straight Up. I knew that he could handle all of the different grooves and bring all kinds of colors to this project.” “One of the nice things about Café” adds Jeanfrançois “is that he reacts not only to the music but to the words, which is really important since Judy writes her own lyrics.”

The opening number, originally called “(It’s Just) Talk,” is a Pat Metheny composition given Niemack’s words and retitled “Talk Awhile.” “I once sang it with a big band without any lyrics, and I loved the groove, the melody and the optimistic feeling it gave me. So, since I am a lyric writer, I tried my hand at this one. It expresses one of my beliefs: that communication can make the world a better place.” The attractive vibes-guitar-bass-percussion quartet works well for the singer, as do the brief but effective solos by Friedman and Jeanfrançois and the final scatted unisons.

“Sometime Ago” is usually taken as a waltz but it has been transformed by Jeanfrançois’ arrangement into a floating piece in 4/4. “I felt that the lyric could have more space if we added a beat in every bar and used a totally open groove,” says the guitarist. “I asked Eddie not to just play rhythm but to play around the melody. Café was laying down a nice carpet of sounds and warm percussion, so Eddie could be free behind Judy’s singing.” The beauty of Judy’s voice is quite apparent throughout this sweet song.

"Some Other Time" is a classic Leonard Bernstein song that always touches me when I hear it", says Judy. This heart-felt version ranks with the best. Thelonious Monk's classic "Round Midnight" which Judy calls "the great dark ballad of all time", benefits from a guest appearance by the great altoist Lee Konitz, whose distinctive tone (cool yet emotional) blends in perfectly with the group and the singer.

Judy Niemack explores her bebop roots on the next two songs, which also have Konitz added to the quartet."Time to Live" is the singer's adaptation of Richie Powell's "Time" (which the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet recorded), and her words speak eloquently about the importance of savoring the present moment before it is gone forever."Tomorrow's Another Day", a King Pleasure song that Judy has long loved, also has philosophical lyrics along with an opportunity for the singer to interact closely with Konitz. "Lee is a true improviser; he doesn't play licks. His playing embodies the philosophy of being in the present."

Vocal-bass duets are quite rare... but Niemack and Gomez have no trouble being a complete band on "I Didn't Know What Time It Was". The highly enjoyable program concludes with Denny Zeitlin's timeless ballad, "Quiet Now".

Scott Yanow
Time After TimeListen!
As Time Goes ByListen!

Judy Niemack vocals, Jeanfrançois Prins guitars, Eddie Gomez bass, Lee Konitz alto saxophone, David Friedman vibes, Café percussion
Produced and arranged by Jeanfrançois Prins