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Jutta Hipp


She had been active as a professional pianist in her native Germany from 1946 on, was a member of the Hans Koller Quartet in the early 1950s and from 1954-55 led her own combo, The Jutta Hipp Quintet. Members of her Frankfurt/Main based band included Emil Mangelsdorff, Joki Freund, and, on occasion, guitarist Atilla Zoller. Hipp was able to claim the honor of having been the only widely known and highly respected female jazz pianist in Germany and beyond (“Europe's First Lady of Jazz”) until the mid-1980s despite the fact that she never returned to her native country. As a pianist Hipp was deeply rooted in the swing tradition and, self-admittedly, her performance style was influenced by Count Basie and Teddy Wilson as well as Fats Waller. By the time East German refugee Hipp begun playing professionally in Bavaria in 1946, bebop had arrived as the latest “fad” in jazz. The pianist's new idol became Bud Powell. And although critics, fellow musicians, and fans recognized Lennie Tristano's influence in her playing by the early ‘50s, Hipp did not approve of such comparisons. She repeatedly went on record expressing her fondness of pianist Horace Silver as a worthy artistic inspiration—most likely for his blues-inspired rhythmic abilities. As Hipp, who also stepped forward as a composer on occasion, matured artistically, she had defined her own artistic standards and revolted when pressured to record music she did not like. She also suffered from severe stage fright throughout her career. Thus being the featured artist at a large performance venue was more of a daunting chore for Hipp than a joyful public celebration of her talent. According to her own accounts, all she wanted to do was play her music in intimate settings for jazz-enthused audiences—the way she had entertained American GIs in military clubs in Germany in the late 1940s and early 1950s.


Jutta Hipp arrived in New York on November 18, 1955—on a large freighter, with fifty Dollars in her purse. The artist's immigration to the United States was sponsored and widely publicized by jazz critic Leonard Feather who had discovered Hipp while visiting Germany and was “blown away” by her talent. Within months of her arrival in New York, Hipp earned the notable distinction of becoming the first white female as well as the first European instrumentalist ever signed by the now legendary Blue Note Records label. Hipp cut three albums as leader for Blue Note in 1956.

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