Sunday, January 29, 2012

Interview with Jutta Hipp

After a reminiscing of Rex Stewart's recordings in Berlin which had an amazing 500 hits and turned out to be one of the most read posts of this blog, and also considering a chat with Berliner pianist/composer Ekkehard Wölk, now's the time for another story of jazz in Germany.

"At 11 A.M. on November 18, 1955, a nervous figure stepped off the gangplank of the S.S. New York at Pier 88 in Manhattan and gazed around with myopic eyes at the unfamiliar landscape of a strange new country. Jutta Hipp had arrived in America," remembers Leonard Feather of the arrival of the person whose life and jazz recordings is the subject of this post.

Before Miss Jutta Hipp's arrival in New York, she was a professional painter and musician in Germany. Born in February 4, 1925 in Leipzig, she started playing jazz in the war years, and not long after the war, she was leading her own combos. Feather discovered her "in the crowded cellar club in Duisberg," and invited her to go to US.

Jutta moved to New York City in 1955, and her first recordings were live at the Hickory House albums, now out-of-print and copies on the web, too expensive to afford. In July of the same year, she went to the studio with Zoot Sims to record probably her most famous LP, in a quintet format. 1956 was also marked by her appearance in Newport Jazz Festival.

We have to wait for the publishing of the first English language book about her (will come out soon) to explain why she suddenly stopped playing jazz and apparently became a seamstress! But some say, she was always nervous of playing with American jazz musicians, in a male dominated environment.

Hipp's American experience was shortly ended up in obscurity, and she returned to her first interest, painting. Though she stayed in New York, and died there in 2003.

This audio file is a radio programme, with interviews and music clips, in German. Anyone interested in transcribing/translating it, is more than welcome.

The last thing I have to say: I won't forgive Richard Cook for not including Hipp in his Jazz Encyclopedia.


  1. Dear Ehsan

    A very very interesting radio feature that is!

    The story how her fame ended according to this feature:

    Essentially Hipp never liked the spotlight and hated playing in a big NYC jazz club such as the Hickory House. She had the feeling people either came there to drink and talk loud or to stare at her as if she was some kind of strange animal.

    When her six months stay at the Hickory House was over she for fewer and fewer jobs. Apparently Leonard Feather who had built Hipps' name up in NYC let her fall at some time, writing that Hipp had changed her style and had become uninteresting. Hipp had to take the job as a seamstress because she was not able to pay the rent anymore. She has not touched the piano for thirty years now (the broadcast seems to have been made in the mid eighties). As she says, she always considered herself an amateur on the piano anyway

    1. Many thanks for translation, Crownpropeller. Recently I was reading Leonard Feather's interesting, though as always self-congratulatory memoir and the chapter about Jutta. Some nice details about how she gets into jazz in the US, and the text surprisingly lacks any in-depth info about why Jutta became fed-up with the whole thing.

  2. Do you have a link for the Jutta Hipp interview? Thanks!

    1. The interview is exactly here on this page, Tom. Maybe you need to refresh your page (sometimes the flash-based player doesn't appear when you load the page), or alternatively try another browser.

  3. Thanks, Ehsan. Yes, my bad. My browser did not support the widget, but now I found it. Thanks. It is an interesting interview that talks about Jutta Hitt's youth, family, and life during WWII in Leipzig and how she escaped to Munich where she worked in a US Military club. I will listen to the other half tonite.

  4. Thank you once more for this fascinating interview.
    Maybe you would like to know that there's a box-set with Hipp's recordings upcoming.
    It will include the first biography about her.
    The book has been written by the musician and scholar Ilona Haberkamp.
    Released through BE! Jazz in October.

  5. Wonderful player. The more you find out about her details, the more heart-breaking the story becomes. Or maybe it's just me...

  6. Many thanks for this wonderful Radio-Feature! Which german Station brings this feature on Air? Date of broadcast?
    Best regards, Ralf W. (Germany)