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Music Review: Jutta Hipp – “The German Recordings 1952-1955″

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Not many jazz musicians learned their craft in Germany during the Second World War. In addition, during the 1940s and 1950s, female jazz musicians were a distinct minority. But so it was for jazz pianist Jutta Hipp on both accounts.

Hipp’s greatest claim to fame came during the mid-1950s. She had immigrated to the United States and signed with the famous Blue Note Records. She quickly released three albums for the label and followed those with a brilliant duet release with Zoot Sims. In 1958 she walked away from the music scene, never to return. She worked as a part-time painter and full-time seamstress for the rest of her life.

While her work for Blue Note was appreciated and remains highly collectable today, her German recordings have received little notice. Those recordings have now been resurrected and released under the title The German Recordings 1952-1955.

Her pre-USA releases have more of a sparse nature to them than her Blue Note material as it finds an artist developing her style and technique. The release combines live and studio recordings from the period when she was fronting her own quintet. There is no original material but rather she interprets jazz standards of the day. She seems more at home with songs from the Great American Songbook. Tunes such as “Gone with the Wind,” “What is This Thing Called Love,” “These Foolish Things,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” and “Lonesome Road” all serve as vehicles for her precise piano runs and improvisation. She has a very light touch and her interpretations put her on the cusp of the bebop and cool jazz movements.

The German Recordings 1952-1955 is a worthwhile trip back in time as it offers a fine picture of an artist whose work has virtually disappeared. Cole Porter may have summed her career best when he stated, “Jutta Hipp had an answer.  But she never told anyone.”

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