Lost Tapes: Jutta Hipp: The German Recordings 1952-1955

By Komara, Edward | ARSC Journal, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Lost Tapes: Jutta Hipp: The German Recordings 1952-1955


Komara, Edward, ARSC Journal


Lost Tapes: Jutta Hipp. The German Recordings 1952-1955. Jazzhaus 101723 (1 CD).

Legends Live: Hans Roller and Friends. Jazzhaus 101733 (1 CD).

Legends Live: Albert Mangelsdorff Quintett. Jazzhaus 101727 (1 LP).

The Jazzhaus subsidiary of Arthaus has been mining the trove of jazz recordings held in German archives. Much of what has been issued to date is of celebrated American musicians on tour in Europe; Benny Goodman, Chet Baker and the Modern Jazz Quartet are among the latest releases. With such illustrious guests, one wonders about the interest in them as shown in the music of European jazz artists. Happily, Jazzhaus has included several continental artists in this series, one of them now of cult interest, the other two among the most lionized in European jazz.

Pianist Jutta Hipp's career is the stuff of legend. Born in 1925 in Leipzig, Germany, she became interested in jazz as a teenager. In addition to her participation in Hans Koller's early groups, she also led her own ensembles. By chance, it seemed, her pianism was noticed by American jazz critic Leonard Feather, who facilitated her move to the U.S. in 1955 and a six-month residency at the Hickory House club in New York City. Her primary American label was Blue Note, which released three albums under her own name plus a 1956 session with Zoot Sims. Although her pianism was well regarded enough to earn an invitation to perform at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, she ended her music career in 1958 and moved from Manhattan to Queens. According to her New York Times obituary (Ben Ratliff, 11 April 2003), she removed herself so completely from the jazz world that Blue Note in 2000 enlisted the help of alto saxophonist Lee Konitz to find her address in order to mail her royalties from CD reissues.

The Hipp CD of the Lost Tapes series contains some of the earliest recordings that Jazzhaus has released to date. The tapes from 1952 and 1953 seem slightly congested, but the 1955 session has a comparatively fresher sound. So for many listeners, this disc is going to serve a historical function in their collections. Since Jazzhaus removed some tracks for the LP issue, the CD version is preferable. The first two songs in the earliest set, the "Jazztime" show taped in Koblenz in 1952, are a 12-measure blues ("Blues After Hours") and a 32-measure song ("Erroll's Bounce"), both American compositions in which Hipp displays her jazz piano skills. For the remainder of the Koblenz session, she is joined by Hans Koller, who at this early stage of his career is playing tenor saxophone in the manner of Lester Young. Hipp and Koller run through five 32-measure songs, most of which are dominated by Koller's playing, although Hipp contributes a pretty half-chorus in the somewhat halting version of "Stompin' at the Savoy."

For the two sessions from June 1953, Hipp and Koller perform with trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff. All of the six pieces they recorded are 32-measure songs, and Koller and Mangelsdorff take the majority of improvising choruses. Hipp's own solos--often a single chorus after the other two soloists have taken their turns--are notable for the spidery contrapuntal bass parts she played with her left hand. The 28 June 1955 session with the fine European tenor saxophonist Joki Freund and guitarist Attila Zoller shows her artistry as it stood just before her departure to the United States. As in the 1953 recordings, all four pieces are 32-measure songs. "Indian Summer" is devoted to Hipp, who plays the theme and a two-chorus improvisation whose invention takes off midway through. Her development as a supporting musician may be assessed in "Serpentinen," in which she masterfully accompanies Freund during his first solo in a way that she had not in 1953 for Koller and Mangelsdorff. With the musical growth documented in these four sessions, it is a shame that her American career did not last very long. Would it have flourished more if she had worked with the Ertegun brothers at Atlantic Records instead of Feather, or if she began to try the chamber-music style of jazz that John Lewis was helping to develop with the Modern Jazz Quartet? …

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