Publication: Stage and Screen
Date: OCTOBER 18, 2023

Ute Lemper’s Time Traveler, which plays Joe’s Pub one more time on October 22, highlights pivotal events in the German-born chanteuse’s life. These events include her move to Berlin forty years ago when she became part of a Kurt Weill show; her 1987 move to Paris to play Sally Bowles in Cabaretand her first performance at Joe’s Pub twenty-eight years ago, not long after Joseph Papp had inaugurated The Public Theater.

But the time Lemper seems to recall most lovingly was when, after being dubbed in France “La  Nouvelle Marlene,” she wrote Dietrich a letter and was rewarded by a phone call from the iconic star herself. Lemper’s rendering of Deitrich, her heroic stand against the Nazis and the subsequent anger of her fellow-Germans, is both moving and funny. It gave birth to her album, Rendezvous with Marlene.

Lemper seems most comfortable with songs written and performed by the great artists in Berlin cabaret during the days of the Weimar Republic, or songs written in a similar style. Her repertoire included Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Pirate Jenny”; Kurt Schwabach and Mischa Spoliansky’s “The Lavender Song,” with its militant lyrics, “We’re not afraid to be queer and different”; and a medley of songs by Schiffer, Spoliansky and Hollander, all about sexual freedom and social decadence.

As Lemper put it, “We would have had the sixties in the forties if the Nazis had not destroyed it.”

Lemper likes songs with poetic lyrics written by people like Charles Bukowsky (“The Crunch”) and Jacques Prévert. With her deep, smoky voice she can deliver these songs with great feeling. She also knows how to bend a note, imitate musical instruments, and scat, all in the time-honored tradition of jazz.

Lemper performs a heartbreaking version of Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” It doesn’t hurt that she can sing in English, French and German. And there are also a few original songs from her newest album Time Traveler.

Ute Lemper travels through time with compassion, a world-weary nod and a wink.

photos by Guido Harari

Time Travelers
Ute Lemper
Joes Pub at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street
last show Sunday October 22, 2023, at 8:30pm
for tickets, visit Public/Joe’s Pub
for tour dates and cities, visit Ute Lemper

Publication: Indie Band Guru
By: Matthew Rowe
Date: August 6, 2023

An exotic tone that is reminiscent of the sounds of a land far away ushers us into a chic bassline that seems intent on infecting us with its unhesitant march. The drums enter the fold, and while they’re not abrasive nor full of reckless abandon, they’re kept from running too close to the straight and narrow by the boisterous low-end in the ensuing melody.

Ute Lemper starts to sing in her honey sweet voice, and suddenly an air of unrestricted sexuality washes over every inch of sonic intensity penetrating our speakers. In her new single “Time Traveler,” the rising jazz star pulls out all of the big guns and riddles a simple harmony with vivacious textures that are as moving and evocative as anything that you would find in a museum of fine art, but don’t be fooled by this song’s multidimensional sonic profile. It’s a far cry from the trite, inaccessibly surreal nattering that has overwhelmed contemporary jazz with pointless experimentation, and yet it ferociously breaks away from the conventional with an urbane stylization that is bound to keep Ute Lemper’s name in the headlines as we head into summer.

“Time Traveler” is slickly produced, but none of the natural tonality in our lead singer’s voice is sacrificed in the construction of this unbelievably catchy hook. There’s a layer of pulsating percussion that separates Lemper’s vocal from the brazen bassline, and to some extent, it helps to define the tension in the lyrics in a way that doesn’t interrupt the fluidity of the verses in the least.

On the one hand, the harmonies that are shadowing every lyrical emission from Lemper are volatile, uncompromising, and seemingly ready to pounce on us around every twist and turn that the song has in store for us.

However, on the other hand, nothing is going on behind the soundboard to prevent the words from capturing the lion’s share of our affections from the very second that they subtly start ripping through the intimidating structure of the intro. There’s nothing to get between the artist and audience in this single, and that’s something that just can’t be said of the bulk of output that we’ve seen from her peers in 2023.

Ute Lemper has been on quite a whirlwind trajectory toward superstardom since the release of her debut not long ago, and from where I sit, “Time Traveler” is only adding fuel to an already incinerating wildfire. There’s too much passion, too much heart, and too much attention to detail for anyone to dismiss what this vibrant songwriter is doing in and out of the studio at the moment, and while we’re gearing up to see some ambitious releases this year, I have a feeling that this is going to stand out as one of the more solid singles cut in the jazz genre. It’s mobile enough to keep us quite stimulated, but its surreal, multifaceted approach to its stately harmonies appeals to a much more discriminating group of music fans who have been waiting for a singer of this caliber to come around for a long time now.

Read the review on Indie Band Guru’s site

Publication: The JW Vibe
By: Jonathan Widran
Date: July 15, 2023

On “Time Traveler,” the dreamy and deeply soulful, downtempo yet vocally dramatic title track from Ute Lemper’s eclectic new album, the veteran German born, NYC based singer/songwriter shares some whimsical, hopeful news – that in these dark times, even through the rain, she’s here to save us, returning from the future, offering us a bridge to someplace better. Considering her vast history as a musical theatre performer and recording artist of classic international repertoire, it’s exciting to see her not only showcasing her vast chops as a multi-genre vocalist and songwriter, but so determined to look ahead rather than rest on her laurels. (See below for the visually stunning cutting-edge video that uses AI to explore time travel and evolution).

Though listeners unfamiliar with that background could surely enjoy the rich emotional intimacy of her voice as she fashions a unique stylistic journey that finds her exploring pop, neo-soul, jazz and alternative R&B vibes, her legendary history worth recounting, if only to showcase how her remarkable artistry interpreting the genius of others has perhaps inspired her own evolution as a self-contained singer/songwriter working amidst the dynamic sonic landscapes of her creative partner Todd Turkisher.

After joining the jazz rock group Panama Drive Band at 16, she graduated from the Dance Academy in Cologne and the Max Reinhardt Seminary Drama School in Vienna. Starting in the Viennese cast of Cats, her theatre credits in Europe and on Broadway include title or key roles in Peter Pan, The Blue Angel, Cabaret and Chicago, in addition to dubbing voices for Disney projects like The Little Mermaid for German recordings. Later named Billboard’s Crossover Artist of the Year for 1993-94, Lemper’s discography includes acclaimed interpretations of Kurt Weill compositions, German cabaret songs, a tribute to Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf, pop albums in English, French and German, contribution to a Sondheim tribute project and an album (Punishing Kiss) featuring songs written for her by Scott Walker, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and others.

Almost as if the world needed it now rather than at the turn of the century, the aptly titled Time Traveler emerged from a chance discovery in 2021 of tapes featuring tracks she had written and recorded two decades ago in her partner’s studio. Finding these recordings again inspired Lemper to reflect on her history, embrace the younger self she heard and, most importantly, compose new songs from the perspective of a human being and artist who had experienced two decades more of life. Most cleverly, to keep us wondering and invite us to immerse deeper into the grand material in these ten exquisitely produced tracks, the promo materials don’t tell us which songs are from which era – only that “she shares her feelings about her path, reflecting on joys, regrets, wisdom, longings and their fulfillment.”

No matter, as the alternating purring sensuality and chaotic vocal intensity on the jazzy, atmospheric “In My Flame” is as timeless and passionately rendered as the funky/jazzy pop-R&B torchiness of the defiant “Moving On,” the seductive mystery of “Magical Stone” and the graceful, spacious, soprano sax sweetened whimsy of “At The Reservoir,” a tribute to her favorite refreshing spot in Central Park. Because it seems crafted as a thematic follow up to “Little Face,” a track on her 2002 album But One Day…, there’s a possible early 2000s time stamp on the lushly arranged, classical-tinged “Little Face – the Sequel.” But even with that, it’s deliciously unknowable speculation.

The listener gets a generous glimpse of Lemper’s sophisticated international coolness on the hypnotic and sweeping French language ballad “Envie D’Amour” before she wraps the wondrous time traveling with the vocally urgent, richly harmonic, old-school soul-jazz flavored “Cry in the Dark” and the gorgeous reflective closing ballad “The Gift,” which features some of Lemper’s most dynamic vocal runs balanced by hushed intimacy. Hopefully, the time traveling she does in the future will grace us with more vibrant originals like these.

Click here to read the review on JW Vibe

By: Thom Jurek
Date: June 2023

In 2000, singer Ute Lemper released Punishing Kiss, a collection written for her by contemporary songsmiths including Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, Neil Hannon, Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan, and Scott Walker. Deeply inspired by the album and its tour, she felt she could begin composing her own tunes. In (future husband) Todd Turkisher’s New York recording studio, she wrote on paper, composed music on a piano, and committed her ideas to analog tape. Though some originals appeared on 2002’s But One Day…, the balance were relegated to her in-laws’ basement. She composed more material for 2008’s Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, but none of those early songs were included.

The source tapes were rediscovered on a shelf in 2021 alongside a backup cassette copy; Turkisherand Lemper restored and digitized them. She realized that some selections were simply too dated to rework, while others held enough of a contemporary spark for reinvention. The couple’s production tweaks included juxtaposing bits of her youthful voice with lyrics re-sung by the artist atop modern grooves. Seized by an impulse to write, she again began scratching on paper, then composing at the piano. Time Traveler’s title track was the first song to emerge in what is ultimately a musical encounter between a mature artist and her younger self.

The title track is a breezy exercise in contemporary jazz framed by casually strummed wah-wah electric guitars, drum kit, keyboards, and piano. Lemper’s phrasing is clean and soft, in an unhurried delivery content to dwell in the spaces between. Meanwhile, she reveals to herself that it’s not only the world that’s changing around us, as time alters us too. The waltz tempo buoying “In My Flame” is elegant, graceful, and deliberately imprecise rhythmically. The lyric juxtaposes present and future with a bittersweet instructive vision of the past. “Moving On” melds pop, blues, and jazz in a pianistic paean to the moment. The spectral, mysterious, luxuriant melody in “Magical Stone” recalls Kate Bush‘s harmonic formalism, though Lemper’s sung phrasing is resonant with her own signature vocal phrasing and playing style. Sung in French, “Envie d’Amour” weds sheeny, multi-textured electro-acoustic pop to inspired nouveau chanson. “Cry in the Dark” evolves from minimal, Rhodes- and guitar-driven jazz to shimmering, sophisticated, sensual pop. The set closes with “The Gift,” a transcendent ballad illustrated by piano, muted brass, and guitars. The protagonist’s journey through the confusion of her inner and outer opacity eventually introduces an open space in her heart where light appears, first in small shards. As confusion lessens, so does doubt, and possibility whispers itself into being. The future, informed by all of these stages, looms hopeful and attainable.

Time Traveler is a consciously constructed song cycle that not only reveals a dialogue between the contemporary artist and her younger self but reveals to the listener the wonder, empathy, and tenderness experienced by both parties.

Click here to see this review and more on AllMusic.