Singing Jazz: Judy Niemack Master Class


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"Part of the fun of jazz is like seeing someone ski down a dangerous slope. When you improvise, you have to take a chance. If you fall, you fall," Judy Niemack was telling her master class on September 26. The nine women with her, most of them professional singers, in the studio of Second Floor Music on West 28th Street in New York City, had come to study with a musician who has been called "one of the best and purest jazz singers ever."
In learning to do solos, she said, "The first step is clapping the rhythm of the song. Later on, you write down your solos. When I was studying with the saxophonist Warne Marsh, for three months I had to compose a solo every week on 'All of Me.' But after thirty or forty songs, the same chord progressions come back. Also, when you transcribe your solos, you get a snapshot of your own musical mind."
Niemack, a Californian who lives in Berlin, has toured the globe, and recorded with such jazz luminaries as Gary Bartz, Cedar Walton, Bruno Castellucci, Eddie Gomez and Kenny Barron. A slender woman with arresting brown eyes, red-gold hair, and very straight posture, she was wearing a tie-dyed green and blue shirt, loose black pants, and a colorful necklace of large glass beads. Last summer she released her tenth album as a leader, In the Sundance (Bluejazz Productions), produced and arranged by her husband, the Belgian guitarist {{Jeanfran


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