Playing Judy Niemack and Clairdee back to back, one is reminded that while some jazz singers are content to simply emulate their idols, others are striving to be distinctive. Niemack is definitely an example of the latter. From inventive scatting and marvelous interpretive abilities to an abundance of soulfulness, ...Night And The Music confirms the fact that Niemack is one of the most exciting jazz singers going. When the improviser digs into Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" and Monk's "Well, You Needn't," it's obvious that she isn't going for pop with jazz overtones she's a jazz singer in the truest sense. Niemack can be stunning on ballads, as she demonstrates on Gordon Jenkins' "Goodbye" and Bill Evans' "Turn out The Stars." The only thing on the CD that should be avoided is her version of Monk's "Misterioso." Paying tribute to the great pianist, Niemack's lyrics become a preachy music history lesson a la Bob Dorham's lyrics to "Yardbird Suite." Otherwise, this album is superb.
Clairdee, meanwhile, lacks even one-twentieth of Niemack's imagination. Greatly influenced by Sarah Vaughan and sometimes sounding a bit Anita Baker- ish in her phrasing, the Bay Area singer has a likable, pleasant voice but plays it much too safe on the faceless and highly predictable Plugged In. There's nothing at all personal about her generic versions of "Round Midnight," "Just Friends," "Body And Soul" and other songs that have been recorded time and time again. Clairdee chooses only the most obvious of standards, and heaven forbid she should do anything unique or different with them. With risk-takers like Niemack, Karrin Allyson, Carla White, Kitty Margolis and Claire Martin keeping busy in the late 1990s, it's best to pass on Plugged In.
Reprinted with the permission of Myrna Daniels and L.A. Jazz Scene , the largest jazz publication in Southern California.