Jutta Hipp, Europe's First Lady of Jazz


Jutta Hipp was born in Leipzig, Germany. She mostly worked in bebop and cool jazz. I just recently discovered her work some seven years after her death in 2003. She is one of those obscure figures in jazz whose whereabouts were a mystery for sometime.  After I discovered this particular CD (Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims) I set out on a journey to collect her entire work I was extremely impressed and have loved her interaction with tenor saxophone players of the bebop era particularly Zoot Sims.

Jutta first studied painting in Germany, but later played jazz during the war and she indicated jazz was important to her during that period. After the war she moved to West Germany due to the communist occupation of East Germany. 

In 1954 famed jazz critic Leonard Feather was impressed with her work when he heard her in Germany. He dubbed her the “Europe's First Lady of Jazz.”, soon after she moved to New York City where she would spend most of her life. Within only four months Hipp would become the first European and white instrumentalist ever signed by the legendary Blue Note Records label. The founder of Blue Note, Alfred Lion, and his business partner Francis Wolff were also German immigrants but had, since the founding of their label in the late 1930s (with the notable exception of baritone saxophonist Gil Melle) signed only black jazz musicians on their artists’ roster. She initially drew some criticism from critics who felt she was too similar to her sponsor Horace Silver. In 1956 she played at the Newport Jazz Festival and did a studio album with Zoot Sims which is featured in the photo, is considered possibly her best. The album is considered rare, but a remastered edition from the Japanese division of Blue Note Records came out in 2003.

She also worked for New York based trios. She had been determined to be seen as an equal to male players, but at the same time she felt intense nervousness playing with other musicians she admired. The anxiety the profession caused her led to her abandoning jazz in 1958 and from then on she made her living primarily as a seamstress. She also returned to her first interest of painting, and her portraits of various jazz musicians became popular with musicians.

Although she maintained some contact with musicians, she had cut herself off from the music industry to the point that by 2000 Blue Note did not know where to send her royalties checks. Lee Konitz was one of a few musicians who kept in touch with her until her death in Queens, NY in 2003. She never married but she did have a son, Lionel who was named after Lionel Hampton. 

After her death she became of some interest as a woman instrumentalist in the New York jazz scene. 

I hope you discover what I hear.


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Get the Latest News Contribute


get updates