Marking the 40th anniversary of her stellar, if too slender, recording career, Judy Niemack, 63, remains one of the most dynamic, inventive jazz singers around. Blending the interpretive smarts of Mark Murphy and the cool snap of Anita O’Day—with scat skills worthy of either—plus the winsome sass of Blossom Dearie, Niemack’s vocal brew is at once intoxicating and vivifying. Over the years she has worked with a spectrum of outstanding players, Lee Konitz, Clark Terry and Pat Metheny among them. But she may have at last found her soulmate in Parisian-born pianist Dan Tepfer, a fellow Konitz acolyte.
Introduced via Konitz in Berlin, where Niemack teaches at the Jazz Institut, the duo subsequently united in Brooklyn in 2012 to record these nine tracks. Five years on, the album is finally seeing the light of day. The playlist is a rich potpourri of standards and reimagined jazz gems, extending from a stunningly despondent “Body and Soul” and uninhibitedly rapturous “You’re My Thrill” to the clever reworking of two Konitz classics, the title track and his Corea paean “Chick Came Around,” both with astute lyrics added by Niemack. And there’s one original, “You’ve Taken Things Too Far,” Niemack’s sadder-but-wiser reflection on overly assertive romantic expectations. If so consistently fine a session needs an acme, it is their extemporaneous ramble through Monk’s “Epistrophy,” glorious testament to their individual ingenuity and to the radiance of their alliance.