Judy Niemack has been a successful singer, educator, lyricist and composer throughout her career. She is also an inspiration for younger jazz vocalists. Despite all she has accomplished, it is clear that her greatest achievements are yet to come. She says, “I love standard music and have done them all my life. But this is a new age and it is time for new music.” “I am open to vocal improv, and I’m interested in learning the art of music and moving the art form forward.”
Judy was born and raised in Pasadena in California. She gained her experience singing in her church choir. Her mother had Nancy Wilson records and she first heard jazz. She discovered she was able to sing harmony when she sang behind her brother who sang lead and played guitar. She sang in many settings as a child, including in musical theatre, rock bands and with folk music groups.
Judy studied classical singing, but her turning point in her career was when she met Warne Marsh (tenor-saxophonist). He followed the lead of Lennie Tristano’s teacher pianist and became an important jazz educator. “I was Warne’s first vocal teacher. He treated me as a horn player. He gave me solos by Roy Eldridge, Charlie Parker and other horn players to learn. He taught me how to improvise. It was called instant composition by him.” Judy attended Pasadena City College, where she took lessons with Gary Foster, an alto saxophonist. She also studied classical singing at the New England Conservatory as well as the Cleveland Institute Of Music. She returned to Los Angeles to continue her studies with Marsh. Her first major gig, which she performed at the Village Vanguard for one week, was after she moved to New York in 1977. Her recording debut was when she led By Heart, her first CD for Sea Breeze, which documented her relationship with the saxophonist.
“During that time, I was purely an improviser. With no thought to entertaining or paying attention, the audience. I began to focus on the lyrics and how they communicated with me, and that is when I started to grow as a singer. Her desire to write lyrics that are modern and relevant is one of her driving factors.
Judy Niemack is a jazz legend thanks to her stunning voice, fearless improvisation, musicianship, versatility and musicality. She has performed with many great jazz musicians, including Kenny Werner and Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron and Jim McNeely. Judy has also worked with guitarist Jeanfrancois Prins and drummers Joey Baron and Adam Nussbaum.
Judy Niemack began teaching jazz singing and improvising around the late 1970s. Since then, she has been a leading educator in jazz and pioneer in European vocal jazz education. She was a vocal jazz teacher at the New School For Jazz and William Patterson University. She moved to Europe in 1993 and joined the Jazz Faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels in Belgium. Two years later, she became the first Professor of Vocal Jazz for Germany. She also teaches at San Sebastian’s Musikene Conservatory, Spain. She has also taught at conservatories in Holland, Belgium, and she leads workshops all over Europe.
“Our generation is likely the first to share information with younger singers willingly, and very openly. Teaching is my favorite thing. I am surrounded by music every day. I enjoy working with singers, helping them to reach their goals. Judy’s CD “Hear It and Sing It!” and vocal improvisation book “Exploring Modal Jazz” are available for purchase. Second Floor Music published Exploring Modal Jazz in 2004 and Hal Leonard published her “Pro-Vocal Jazz Standards in 2008.
Judy has recorded ten albums so far as a performer, including My Heart, Blue Bop (Freelance), Long As You’re Living(Freelance), Heart’s Desire [Stash]), which features duets featuring pianist Kenny Barron, Straight up (Freelance), Night And The Music, Freelance), Night And The Music, Jeanfrancois Prins, Mingus, Monk, and Mal (Freelance), What’s Going on (Temps), Blue Nights (Blujazz), with Gary Bartz, and Jim McNeely and Blue Nights (Blujazz] with Gary Bartz, Jim McNeely and Jim McNeeely) and Blue Nights (Blujazz), Blue Nights (Blujazz), Blue Nights (Blujazz), Blue Nights (Blujazz), Blue Night (Blujazz), Blue Nights (Blujazz), with Jim McNeeeeeely) with Jim McNeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeely, and Jim McNeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeely, Gary Bartz, and Jim McNeely, and Jim McNeeely, Blue Nights (Blujazz), with Jim McNeely, and Blue Nights (Blujazz), with Jim McNeely). Blujazz has also released a new CD called “Sun Dance”, which focuses on summer themes.
Blue Nights showcases my mainstream traditional side. It is a modern version of some of my favourite songs that I have loved for a long time. Sun Dance is my next CD. It celebrates my favorite season, Summer. Judy Niemack is optimistic and enthusiastic about the future. “Exploring blues” is my new book and CD. It includes performances by Darmon Meader, Darmon Meader, Mark Murphy, and Sheila Jordan. It will raise the standard in vocal jazz education. I plan to keep doing what I do best: teaching, performing, writing lyrics and creating new music.
No matter what the future brings, Judy Niemack’s future projects are sure to be innovative, stimulating, and full of joyous surprises.