Judy Niemack – What’s Love? (2022)

Judy Niemack - What's Love? (2022)
Artist: Judy Niemack
Album: What’s Love?
Label: Sunnyside Records
Year Of Release: 2022
Format: FLAC (tracks)
1. Feelin’ It In Your Bones (5:25)
2. Firefly (5:06)
3. For All We Know (4:18)
4. Catalyst (4:25)
5. I’m Moving On (5:01)
6. What’s Love Got to Do With It (5:36)
7. Just When I Thought (4:46)
8. With You (4:39)
9. Let Life Lead You (5:07)
10. Blues That Soothe My Soul (4:28)
11. I’ll Love Again (4:34)
12. Born to Be Blue (4:39)
13. Right Here, Right Now (4:40)


Judy Niemack – vocals
Peter Bernstein – guitar
Sullivan Fortner – piano
Doug Weiss – bass
Joe Farnsworth – drums
Eric Alexander – alto saxophone (9)

Jazz vocalist Judy Niemack presents a collection of rhapsodic romantic songs on her upcoming album release, What’s Love, due out October 28 on Sunnyside Records. Following Niemack’s lauded 2018 release New York Stories with pianist Jim McNeely and Danish Radio Big Band, What’s Love represents a vulnerable side of the lifelong vocalist’s artistry. In an embrace of her distinctive sound, Niemack’s rich collection of original lyrics paired with select standards offers a glimpse into her resilient and inventive vocal prowess.

An exploration of the healing powers of love, What’s Love presents as a musical reconciliation with the boundless, yet relatable, challenges that continually loop through our lives. While conceptually, What’s Love is a beacon of effervescence, its sound is both capricious and exhilarating. Niemack takes to exploring the many varieties of love in her life on each selection, while also seizing an opportunity to explore her vocal range. Her trademark sound — clear, yet warm with a cloudy edge — is softer here. Employing this lower timbre, Niemack is keenly aware of her newfound sense of expression: “I haven’t lost my high notes, but gained lower ones,” she adds.

Niemack is joined among the highest level of jazz musicianship for the affair; What’s Love hosts Peter Bernstein on guitar, Sullivan Fortner on piano, Doug Weiss on bass, Joe Farnsworth on drums and Eric Alexander on alto saxophone.

“This is my view of love which, of course, is unique,” the singer, author and professor shares while discussing her inspiration for the title, which also borrows from her arrangement of the Tina Turner hit, “What’s Love Got To Do With It, a high moment on the date for the leader, who takes a slower and more contemplative approach to Turner’s question.

“Michelangelo famously said that he saw the sculpture hidden in a piece of marble and simply revealed it by taking away the stone, bit by bit. Composing for me is similar— I have a feeling I want to express, which leads to a poem, words, which then are set to music that I discover on the piano. It just comes to me. My songs grow out of emotion.”

An overt lyrical message of moving ahead after loss, the track “I’m Moving On” gives generous space for each band member to contribute solos that grapple with the notion of moving forward, making the track a more gentle and evocative standout off the record. With Bernstein and Fortner at the instrumental helm, Niemack’s gifted scatting is guided effortlessly throughout — “I’ll Love Again” and “Right Here, Right Now” are two examples, where lush instrumentation is met by silken vocal intonations.

While recording at the Van Gelder, Alexander joined the band as a special guest alto saxophonist. He contributes his optimistic original composition “Let Life Lead You.” Though the cheerful message was originally penned ‘Little Lucas,’ a note to Alexander’s son, Niemack was galvanized by its universality. Contributing a new lyric and title, she sings about embracing risk and remaining grateful in moments of opportunity — a key sentiment that prevails across the record.

Highlighting her propensity for articulation and translucence as a songwriter and vocalist, Niemack outrivals herself on What’s Love. A deliberate and tasteful meditation on life’s various chapters, What’s Love captures the essence of a talent with an unrequited passion for the sounds of storytelling. Judy Niemack, through her confident command and glistening vocal range, is inviting us to think about what ‘love’ means, yet by her own seamless and magical invention, once we accept her call, all we really have to do is listen.

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