You've probably never have heard of Jutta Hipp, and that's through no fault of your own, but her story's sadly interesting though very sketchy one. At the tender age of 13, she'd already completed her classical piano studies and quickly moved on to jazz, befriending Emil and Albert Mangelsdorff, Joki Freund, Hans Koller, and other German luminaries. A beautiful redhead, Hipp very swiftly was accepted into the music scene in the early 50s but this particular strikingly adept ivories-tickler was also mercurial and hypersensitive, a combination perhaps common to artists but not without its problems when acute. Nonetheless, no less a pair of ears than Leonard Feather's, after catching her in a very crowded cellar in Germany, became enamored of what he was hearing and, upon his return to America, encouraged Alfred Lion at Blue Note to sign her. He did.
The result was unprecedented as far as I can tell: three LPs issued inside eight months, marking a meteoric elevation to the heights, immediately after which the plunge began. Jutta almost immediately dissociated from Feather, withdrew from jazz and from her sponsor Horace Silver, fell afoul of money problems, became alcoholic, and embarked on a long path to complete obscurity, so much so that Blue Note had no clue where to send royalties checks in later years. Only Lee Konitz knew of her location, and he wasn't telling. Dying a recluse at 78 in 2003, having been a seamstress, photographer, and painter after leaving music, if you think some rock and rollers have pursued lightning-swift self-destructions, Hipp sets the record, and while there surely is more to the story than meets the eye, one thing is certain: this was one talented pianist, as the 17 cuts here make crystal clear.
Jutta was most definitely a adjunct of the West Coast Cool vibe, nearly all the cuts being mellifluous exercises in judicious choices and unhurried thinking, with only three upleveling the tempo. Her arrangement of What is this Thing Called Love? is particularly intriguing, Hans Koller's sax running first with and then against her pianistics in melodic and then atonal counterpoint, Jutta reflecting the same oscillations when her solo comes up. The crowd loves it (many cuts in the collection are live), and once again the Jazzhaus label has rescued a disc of lost treasure from oblivion. The fiery-haired temperamental musician is one of the sharpest examples of burn-out ever and undoubtedly more intelligent than the times could support (or wanted to), but the very slim catalogue of work she left behind, a mere 5 LPs, is herein expanded significantly.
You'll catch a lot of very slowed down echoes of barrelhouse and stride as well as the evolving voice the piano was adopting in a highly contrasting celebration of the old and the new—mainly the old—but, regardless, the best way to appreciate why she was taken to so readily can only be had directly, so here's a link to her live version of These Foolish Things taken from the remastered At the Hickory House, Vol. 1 (1955), one of the three-in-a-row mentioned above:
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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