Jutta Hipp: Jutta Hipp at the Hickory House, Vol. 2 – Blue Note 1516

Marc Davis By

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Enter the album name hereRaise your hand if you've never heard of Jutta Hipp. Yeah, me either. And yet, there she is, brooding and shadowy on the cover of her first Blue Note album.

Yes, she—a female rarity in the almost-all-male world of 1950s Blue Note. And not American, either. Like Becks and Volkswagen, Jutta Hipp is a German import, but unlike Volkswagen, Hipp is not so very different from her male American counterparts.

First, a word about finding Jutta Hipp CDs. The two CDs of Hipp live at the Hickory House, recorded in 1955, are available only as imports, but they're not terribly expensive or hard to find. I picked up Volume 2 on Amazon for $10 used.

The CD case is hard cardboard—not like the flimsy LP covers of yore. The original liner notes by Leonard Feather are on the back, in type so small that only Nobel Prize-winning physicists using electron microscopes can read them. But then, there are also more recent, more legible liner notes form 1990 inside—in Japanese! (Apparently there is no Japanese translation for Rudy Van Gelder. His initials are all over the Japanese liner notes.)

So, how rare is Jutta Hipp on CD? Not very, despite her lack of notoriety. Amazon has 41 used and new copies of her most popular album, Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims, for only $4 or $5. Another relatively rare CD, the "lost tapes" of 1952-55 from Germany, are readily available for $8 or $9. So if you like the fraulein, she's not hard to find.

On the other hand, the book Blue Note Records by Richard Cook contains exactly one reference to Hipp, noting that she quickly disappeared from the jazz scene shortly after a few Blue Note recordings in the '50s. Not exactly ubiquitous or influential.

The music is lively and light, played with a simple piano-bass-drums trio. There's nothing here you can't find elsewhere, especially from Horace Silver. It's pleasant, tune- filled and sometimes bluesy.

The CD starts with a toe-tapping version of "Gone With the Wind," then turns nicely into a slow drag blues on Erskine Hawkins' "After Hours." Hipp has a nice touch, moving easily up and down the keyboard, with charming frills and turns that make you wonder why she disappeared so quickly.

The oddest tune is a solo bass version of "If I Had You," backed by Hipp's occasional, gentle vamping, then closing with a very boppish, nimble-fingered "My Heart Stood Still." All told, Jutta Hipp at the Hickory House is the kind of record that makes you smile, bop your head in time with the piano and come away feeling all is right with the world. Not a bad way to start, or end, the day.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Availability: Easy to find

Cost: $10 used

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