\"It seems only appropriate that Judy Niemack spends a significant amount of her time teaching, for there isn\'t anyone--whether jazz neophyte or veteran--who can\'t learn from her. Like fellow vocalist-cum-educator Tierney Sutton, Niemack represents jazz singing at its finest and most accomplished. Throughout her two-decade career, she has consistently bordered on flawless, yet she\'s never become mannered or predictable.
Her latest, a 12-track homage to the various moods and sentiments associated with the color blue, is at once a sublime testament to her long-established musical prowess and an utterly refreshing exercise in interpretive brilliance.
Niemack navigates everything from a hard-swinging \"Moanin\'\" to a bossa-infused \"Blue In Green,\" a perky \"Bluesette\" and a simmering \"Afro Blue\" with uniform finesse. Her reading of Joni Mitchell\'s \"Blue\" is a supreme study in soul-searching ache. She can write, as brilliantly illustrated by lyrics she here fits to Bill Evans\' \"Interplay\" and Monk\'s \"Misterioso\" (aptly re-dubbed \"A Crazy Song to Sing\"). She understands, as too few vocalists do, the subtlety of scat, knowing that its effect is most powerful when used not just intelligently but also sparingly.
And, most important of all, she appreciates, as all truly great jazz singers do, that her union with bandmates Jeanfrançois Prins (whose dazzling guitar work is equaled by his arrangements of 11 of the 12 tracks), pianist Jim McNeely, bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Victor Lewis, plus alternating guests Don Sickler (trumpet and flügelhorn) and saxophonist Gary Bartz, must be a seamless exercise in mutual trust and respect.
-Christopher Loudon, JAZZTIMES
\"You sing like an angel, or at least like an angel who’s heard Basie and Miles: you’ve got intonation that whole choruses would kill for, and a voice that never loses its soft sheen even at hot tempos and high volume. You’re one of the few singers who actually should sing scat solos, since you think so much like a horn player. (I recall you telling me once that the reason you studied classical singing was to get “complete control” of your vocal instrument; and that when you studied improvisation with Warne Marsh, you wanted to “raise the bar” and go beyond the bebop riffing of most scatters. And you know what, Judy? You really have\"
I’ve never heard you not swing, though I do sometimes hear the harmonies behind the notes when you sing them. (I guess that has something to do with how you maneuver around the melody, huh?). And then you write these jaw-droppingly terrific lyrics; and you even make a gorgeous couple with Jeanfrancois, who must have made you even happier than he usually does with the arrangements on this disc.
So c’mon, really. “Blue Nights”? ...I love what Jim McNeely and Gary Bartz bring to the table; I mean, can you find two better examples of veteran musicianship, crossing all the “t”s and dotting the “i”s whenever they play, and still catching up a listener with the sweep of their solos? I also love the way you’ve taken two of the trickiest lines in the jazz mainstream and managed to give them the words they deserve – especially “Misterioso.” (I mean, why not make it into a song about how hard it is to sing this song? Perfect.) I’ll just say this: Theory 102 never sounded this hip... What I don’t get is how someone with so little reason to “sing the blues” can make them sound so damned good.
NEIL TESSER, DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE