Blue Nights

April 10, 2007
Judy Niemack
BluJazz Records
Producer: Jeanfrançois Prins
Number of discs: 1

Judy Niemack vocals, Jeanfrançois Prins guitars, arranger, producer, Jim McNeely piano, Dennis Irwin bass, Victor Lewis drums, Gary Bartz alto & soprano saxophones, Don Sickler trumpet & flugelhorn

Judy Niemack has released so many outstanding CDs that it seems unfathomable that this 2007
release for Blujazz is her first U.S. recording since Heart’s Desire and only her third U.S. album overall.
But she makes up for lost time with a typically adventurous outing, backed by guitarist Jeanfrançois
Prins, pianist Jim McNeely, bassist Dennis Irwin, and drummer Victor Lewis, with guest
appearances by saxophonist Gary Bartz and trumpeter/flügelhornist Don Sickler on selected tracks.
Niemack’s sassy take of Duke Ellington’s “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues” and her scatting in unison
with Prins’ guitar in a romp through “Bluesette” open the disc with a bang, but she cools things down
with her intricate interpretation of Bill Evans’ “Interplay,” for which she supplied delightful lyrics. “A
Crazy Song to Sing” has more of a vocalese quality, describing the appeal of performing Thelonious
Monk’s “Misterioso,” punctuated by Bartz’s smoldering alto sax solo. “In a Sentimental Mood” is set
up by an intriguing blend of guitar, flügelhorn, and alto sax, with Niemack delivering a captivating
performance. Judy Niemack has been one of the most underrated jazz vocalists of her generation, and
this brilliant effort should awaken critics who have unjustly overlooked her consistently excellent work.
Ken Dryden – All Music

It seems only appropriate that Judy Niemack spends a significant amount of her time teaching, for there isn’t anyone–whether jazz neophyte or veteran–who can’t learn from her. Like fellow vocalist-cum-educator Tierney Sutton, Niemack represents jazz singing at its finest and most accomplished. Throughout her two-decade career, she has consistently bordered on flawless, yet she’s never become mannered or predictable.
Her latest, a 12-track homage to the various moods and sentiments associated with the color blue, is at once a sublime testament to her long-established musical prowess and an utterly refreshing exercise in interpretive brilliance.
Niemack navigates everything from a hard-swinging “Moanin'” to a bossa-infused “Blue In Green,” a perky “Bluesette” and a simmering “Afro Blue” with uniform finesse. Her reading of Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” is a supreme study in soul-searching ache. She can write, as brilliantly illustrated by lyrics she here fits to Bill Evans’ “Interplay” and Monk’s “Misterioso” (aptly re-dubbed “A Crazy Song to Sing”). She understands, as too few vocalists do, the subtlety of scat, knowing that its effect is most powerful when used not just intelligently but also sparingly.
And, most important of all, she appreciates, as all truly great jazz singers do, that her union with bandmates Jeanfrançois Prins (whose dazzling guitar work is equaled by his arrangements), pianist Jim McNeely, bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Victor Lewis, plus alternating guests Don Sickler (trumpet and flugelhorn) and saxophonist Gary Bartz, must be a seamless exercise in mutual trust and respect. Christopher Loudon – Jazz Times

Affiné à un point d’équilibre presque vertigineux, l’art de Judy Niemack s’impose aujourd’hui plus que jamais, à force de contrôle et de ductilité, comme un métal de plus en plus pur. Avec cet album en forme de menu-dégustation de grand restaurant sans esbrouffe, c’est une vaste carte des nuances de bleu qu’elle déplie, de structures aussi classiques que celle de All Blues (ou d’un Misterioso qu’elle transforme en A Crazy Song To Sing) à la couleur allusive du Blue de Joni Mitchell en passant par les irrésistibles hétérodoxes Moanin’ (à la frontière toujours entre profane et paroxysme churchy), ou Afro-Blue. Véritable leçon de jazz singing (comme les oeuvres de ses meilleures aînées et consoeurs), ces soixante-quinze minutes déjouent tous les pièges où l’on a vu tomber depuis des années d’innombrables innocentes (et souvent éphémères) vocalistes en mal de starisation, ne serait-ce que celui du scat, qui devrait être réservé aux seul(e)s musicien(ne)s. Judy Niemack (ainsi qu’elle nous en avait fait la démonstration jadis sur les scènes du festival de Calvi, notamment en duo avec son amie Anne Ducros) cultive cette discipline avec autant d’élégance que de parcimonie. Mesure, discipline, hypersensibilité (qualités qu’on retrouve au niveau des arrangements-écrins de Jeanfrançois Prins): comme une idée de perfection. Philippe Carles – Jazz Magazine