Squawk Radio

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Liz Brings You a Jazzy Sunday

Judy Carmichael is known in music circles for her excellence when it comes to stride piano, a genre dominated by men, especially those of an age much older than Ms. Carmichael (as in, a lot of them are no longer with us). Guys like Fats Waller, James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith. I found a good description of stride at Irwin’s Ragtime/Stride/Swing/Novelty MIDI web site (http://members.aol.com/midimusic/): “The term stride comes from the action of the left hand, which supplies a constant beat against a melodious right hand. The left hand jumps from strong upbeats (either single-note, octaves or tenths) to chordal downbeats (usually triads or tetrads, but sometimes single notes). Variety is given to the left-hand accompaniment through a walking-bass pattern, melodic episodes, arpeggiation and other techniques).”

Got that? Then you’re one step ahead of me. To me, it sounds like ragtime, but--again referring to Irwin’s site--it’s evidently played in 12/8 instead of the 8/8 ragtime uses. Whatever that means. I don’t play music, I only love to listen to it. And all I know is that Judy Carmichael plays stride piano like nobody’s business. On “Old Friends,” she’s joined by Warren Vache on the cornet and Howard Alden on guitar, and between the three of them, they play an old-timey kind of jazz that will carry you back to the '20s and '30s faster than a silent movie.

There’s lots of great stuff on this CD, which, honestly, may be hard to find these days. iTunes has a handful of the selections available for download, but not the whole album. But anything by Judy Carmichael (we also have “Pearls,” which is excellent) would be money well spent. The reason I like “Old Friends” so much, though, is because there’s a Hoagy Carmichael (no relation) medley that I adore, as I’m a big Hoagy fan. Another fave is “Sweet Lorraine.” As is “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” She performs beautifully and joyfully numbers written by the three artists mentioned in the previous paragraph, along with pieces by Jellyroll Morton and Duke Ellington, among others.

It’s just really wonderful, happy music that will enliven any day, any mood. It’s the sort of music that makes contemporary movies like “Annie Hall” so much fun to watch, and that gives old black-and-white movies such a classic feel. And for a lazy Sunday morning, like this one, it’s the perfect accompaniment.
Elizabeth Bevarly, 11:22 AM