In the piano biz, it’s common to find an excellent performer or an excellent entertainer. It’s entirely uncommon, however, to find an artist who exemplifies both. Thus, when I first came across Grammy-nominated swing pianist, Judy Carmichael’s music, I became an instant fan. Judy’s iconic style has always included a mix of musical mischievousness and subtle virtuosity that so few in today’s music scene can achieve. She presents her talent in an almost casual way – as if you’re visiting her in her home rather than watching her “perform.” The result? She delights her fans time and time again with a vibrant and playful style that urges you to “dance at your own risk.”
Judy’s new CD, “Come and Get It,” is a bit of a departure in that she debuts her incredible – and completely unexpected – talent as a vocalist. Snapping into an addictive groove from the first note, Judy opens with the classic Benny Goodman tune “All the Cats.” Breaking from her traditional stride piano technique (a technique that gets its name from the “back and forth” motion her left-hand makes as it provides a rhythmic counterbalance to her right-hand melodies), Judy accompanies herself from verse to verse with ease. Making the song a true Carmichael experience, Judy brings the instrumental interlude back to her stride piano roots with a rousing accompaniment from Mike Hashim (sax) and Jon-Erik Kellso (cornet), Ed Ornowski (drums), Nik Payton (clarinet), Dave Blenkhorn (guitar) and Dan Barnett (trombone and vocals).
The CD’s title track is another vocal piece in which Judy’s personality as an entertainer really shines through. Energetic, fun and playful to a tee, “Come and Get It” revives Fats Waller’s wicked humor and gives us guys a pointer or two on how to “get the girl.”
No Judy Carmichael CD would be complete, however, without a textbook stride piece and the Waller tune “Minor Drag” fits that bill perfectly. Romping effortlessly from phrase to phrase, Judy supports some excellent solo performances by members of her band before bringing the piece to a thunderous close that, frankly, brought me to my feet.
In all, “Come and Get It” is the perfect marriage between great music (expertly performed) and first-class entertainment. For the uninitiated, it’s the perfect entry into the stride piano genre. For stride lovers, it’s a rare chance to “dust off your dancing shoes” and scratch that swing piano itch. Check out “Come and Get It” (and all of Judy’s CDs) at http://www.judycarmichael.com/CDs.shtml#cd.