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Jutta Hipp Dies

Jutta Hipp, a pianist who left her musical career early and became a dressmaker, died April 7 of unknown causes at her home in Queens, N.Y. She was 78.

Born in East Germany in 1925, Hipp studied piano from an early age. Later she took up painting and attended the Leipzig Academy of Graphic Arts. When the Russians occupied Leipzig in 1946 she left school and moved to Munich, in West Germany. There she began her own jazz combo and played in a circus and in nightclubs. Her sophisticated and cerebral approach on the piano was likened to Lennie Tristano’s at the time, and Horace Silver’s name has come up in conversations about her style as well.

In the early 1950s Hipp performed and recorded with saxophonist Hans Koller. She also toured with her own group, which was comprised entirely of German musicians. That group can be heard on the out-of-print Blue Note 10-inch Jutta Hipp Quintett (New Faces-New Sounds From Germany), which was once reissued on CD via the Japanese label Toshiba-EMI but remains a rare recording. Its cover is pictured.

In 1951 critic-producer Leonard Feather received a tape of Hipp’s music, sent to him by a friend of Hipp’s. Feather arranged for Hipp to come to New York City in 1955, where he had booked the pianist for a gig at the Hickory House with bassist Peter Ind and drummer Ed Thigpen. The trio stuck together for a year (though Ind was eventually replaced by Ahmed Abdul-Malik) and can be heard on the two-volume Jutta Hipp at the Hickory House (Blue Note), which is also out of print. Another Hipp recording only available in the used bins is Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims (Blue Note). It’s her most lauded disc and was reissued in America on CD in 1996.

Hipp left music altogether in 1958, cutting a promising career short in order to focus on painting and, soon thereafter, dressmaking. She moved to Queens and couldn’t even be found by Blue Note in order to receive royalty checks. The label found her in 2000 and paid her $40,000 in back-royalties. She leaves no known survivors.

Originally Published