6 Songs, 42 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

You can’t make up a story like Jutta Hipp’s. Born in Leipzig in 1925, she fell in love with jazz as an adolescent, tuning in to radio stations broadcasting illicitly under Nazi watch. (Jazz was, in the eyes of the Reich, not only “degenerate art” but “Negermusik”—strictly forbidden.) After the war, she took up a career as a pianist, moving to America in the mid-'50s with the help of the critic and musician Leonard Feather, who’d heard her play while travelling through Europe. Within a year, she’d signed to Blue Note; within five, she’d withdrawn from music entirely, settling into work at a garment factory in Queens, where she lived until her death in 2003. By the time Blue Note managed to find her in 2000, they brought along a gift: $40,000 in royalties.

Released in 1957, Hipp’s date with the tenor player Zoot Sims was her last known recording—a snapshot of an artist just starting to settle into her own style. Clean, boppy, a little cool and refreshingly straightforward, the performances here aren’t calibrated to reach out and throttle—instead, your ears come to them. And while Sims is a far more forward player than Hipp, it’s Hipp who quietly shines: Listen to her delicate—but playfully percussive—solo on the ballad “Violets for Your Furs”, or the way she seems to trip up and down the keyboard on the brisk “Wee Dot”, incorporating just a hint of bluesy dissonance without ever losing her poise.

EDITORS’ NOTES

You can’t make up a story like Jutta Hipp’s. Born in Leipzig in 1925, she fell in love with jazz as an adolescent, tuning in to radio stations broadcasting illicitly under Nazi watch. (Jazz was, in the eyes of the Reich, not only “degenerate art” but “Negermusik”—strictly forbidden.) After the war, she took up a career as a pianist, moving to America in the mid-'50s with the help of the critic and musician Leonard Feather, who’d heard her play while travelling through Europe. Within a year, she’d signed to Blue Note; within five, she’d withdrawn from music entirely, settling into work at a garment factory in Queens, where she lived until her death in 2003. By the time Blue Note managed to find her in 2000, they brought along a gift: $40,000 in royalties.

Released in 1957, Hipp’s date with the tenor player Zoot Sims was her last known recording—a snapshot of an artist just starting to settle into her own style. Clean, boppy, a little cool and refreshingly straightforward, the performances here aren’t calibrated to reach out and throttle—instead, your ears come to them. And while Sims is a far more forward player than Hipp, it’s Hipp who quietly shines: Listen to her delicate—but playfully percussive—solo on the ballad “Violets for Your Furs”, or the way she seems to trip up and down the keyboard on the brisk “Wee Dot”, incorporating just a hint of bluesy dissonance without ever losing her poise.

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