If you want to know what real jazz singing can be (but rarely is), listen to Judy Niemack...She is a musician in the truest sense, having mastered her instrument (a beautiful one), and her chosen language and crafted her own style Dan Morgenstern
Throughout her career, Judy Niemack has accomplished a great deal as a singer, educator, lyricist, composer, and inspiration to younger jazz vocalists. Yet with all that she has done thus far, one gets the impression that the best is yet to come. “I love standards and have performed them all of my life but this is a new era and it is time to create new music,” she says. “I’m open to all forms of vocal improv and I’m very interested in mastering the art of music and pushing the art form forward to new places.”
Born and raised in Pasadena, California, Judy gained experience singing in her church choir. She first heard jazz through her mother’s Nancy Wilson records, and discovered that she could easily sing harmonies when she and her sister sang background vocals behind her brother, who played guitar and sang lead. As a child and as a teenager, she sang in a wide variety of settings including musical theatre, rock bands, with folk music groups, and in a jazz vocal quartet.
Judy studied classical singing but the turning point in her young career was when she met the great tenor-saxophonist Warne Marsh, who followed in the footsteps of his teacher pianist Lennie Tristano by becoming an important jazz educator. “I became Warne’s first vocal student. He treated me like a horn player. He assigned me solos by Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge and others to learn. I learned about improvising from him. He called it instant composition.” Judy attended Pasadena City College where she had lessons with alto saxophonist Gary Foster, and studied classical singing at the New England Conservatory and the Cleveland Institute Of Music. When she returned to the Los Angeles area, she continued studying with Marsh and, after moving to New York in 1977, her first important gig was performing at the Village Vanguard for a week with Marsh. She made her recording debut, leading the first of her ten CDs, By Heart for the Sea Breeze label, which documented her association with the saxophonist.