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Judy Niemack

Born and raised in Pasadena, California, Judy gained her early experience singing in her church choir from the age of 7. 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 on folk songs behind their brother. As a teenager, she sang in a wide variety of settings including musical theater, rock bands, bluegrass groups, madrigals and in a vocal jazz quartet.

Judy then studied classical singing and was encouraged to make it her focus, 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 just like I was a horn player, and assigned me solos by Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge and Prez to learn. He taught me to improvise. He always called it instant composition.” Attending Pasadena City College, she had lessons with alto saxophonist Gary Foster, and later studied classical singing at New England Conservatory and Cleveland Institute Of Music.

On returning to the Los Angeles area, she continued her studies with Marsh and, after moving to New York in 1977 on his advice, her first important gig was a week at the Village Vanguard in his band. She made her recording debut featuring him and bassist Eddie Gomez, "By Heart", for the Sea Breeze label in 1978.

“During that period, I was strictly a vocal improviser, with little thought given to entertaining. But eventually I started to focus on the lyrics, and how to communicate, and I really grew as a singer.” Starting in the late 1970s, Judy began to a compose and to write lyrics. She became the lyricist for such pieces as Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud,” Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso,” Bill Evans’ “Interplay,” Richie Powell’s “Time” and Duke Jordan’s “Jordu,” as well as songs by the likes of Lee Konitz, Pat Metheny, Dexter Gordon, Gigi Gryce, Kenny Dorham, Curtis Fuller, Bob Brookmeyer, Richie Beirach, Don Grolnick, Mike Stern, Johnny Griffin and others. One of the driving forces behind her writing is the desire to sing lyrics that are more relevant to life today than those of the standard repertoire of the 30s and 40s.

Due to her beautiful voice, fearless improvising, impressive musicianship and versatility, Judy Niemack has since sung with many of the "who’s who" of jazz, including guitarist Peter Bernstein, pianists Fred Hersch, Kenny Werner, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Jim McNeely, Steve Kuhn, and Kirk Lightsey, saxophonists Lee Konitz, Joe Lovano and James Moody, the great harmonica player Toots Thielemans, flugelhornist Clark Terry, bassists Ray Drummond and Eddie Gomez, drummers Billy Higgins, Joey Baron and Billy Hart, the New York Voices, and Danish Radio and WDR Big Bands.

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"Her creative odyssey provides a fascinating illustration of the high road to mastery that transcends the limitations of genre...a vocalist of theatrical depth and consumate syllabic invention. Ever since her debut with (Warne) Marsh at the Village Vanguard, audiences have marvelled at the grace with which Niemack scats." — K. Leander Williams, Downbeat "To hear Judy Niemack's immaculate delivery of poetic romance and lilting spirit from the classic American songbook is to believe she was weaned on it...She didn't merely dabble in folk, opera, jazz, avant-garde and the great American standards; she studied and explored them..

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Primary Instrument

Vocals

Location

New York City

Willing to teach

Beginner to advanced

Credentials/Background

Judy is availabe for private lessons online, and in NYC and in Berlin.  Rates are $150 per hour

University/Conservatory positions:

1993-1995, Professor of Vocal Jazz, Royal Conservatory of Antwerp, Belgium

Guest Professor, Royal Conservatory in Den Hague, Holland.

1994-1996, Professor of Vocal Jazz, Royal Conservatory of Brussels, Belgium

1995-2020: First Professor of Vocal Jazz, Jazz Institut Berlin, Germany

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Photos

Concerts

Mar 17 Sun

Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Voices in Flight

GAM Records
2023

buy

What's Love?

Sunnyside Records
2022

buy

New York Stories

Sunnyside Records
2018

buy

Listening to You

Sunnyside Records
2017

buy

In the Sundance

Bluejazz
2009

buy

Born To Be Blue

From: What's Love?
By Judy Niemack

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