By GARAUD MacTAGGART, News Contributing Reviewer
The Buffalo News, 5/8/2006
CONCERT REVIEW – Judy Carmichael with Michael Hashim
Sunday as part of Art of Jazz Series at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Stride piano, according to Judy Carmichael, has been at the heart of all jazz piano playing since the 1920s. Her Sunday afternoon appearance in Albright-Knox Art Gallery was a reminder of how vital and invigorating the form can be.
With left-hand leaps providing the chords from which the right hand takes off in flights of fancy, stride piano was the base upon which Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and Earl Hines built their careers. It is also the musical love of Carmichael’s life, a fact that she communicated to the delight of the audience.
Along with saxophonist Michael Hashim, a crafty and inventive instrumentalist in his own right, Carmichael ran through a catalog of standards that included a pair of George Gershwin chestnuts, “I Got Rhythm” and “Lady Be Good,” Waller’s “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now,” Benny Goodman’s “If Dreams Come True” and Harry Warren’s “Lulu’s Back in Town.”
Their interplay, musically and in between-song banter, was a joy to hear and see.
Carmichael is not only a top-notch pianist but proved to be a gifted raconteur, telling tales of the road that got her audience chuckling. This gift may be why her show on National Public Radio’s Sirius Satellite Channel (“Jazz Inspired”) is so much fun.
After regaling her listeners with how often she had been asked about her relationship to Hoagy Carmichael, the pianist sat down at the keyboard to play a slow, well-paced rendition of Hoagy’s “Lazy River,” which featured some intriguing voicings. A similar thing happened with “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” a song Waller didn’t write but was known for playing, where a funny story led into an extended, moving performance that showcased how to be inventive with old, familiar material.
Throughout the concert, that is what Carmichael did. What some tonier musicians might consider a dead idiom came alive under her hands and by her wit. By the end of the concert, the Albright-Knox patrons were in the palm of her hand. The standing ovations that bracketed her encore (Waller’s “Honeysuckle Rose”) were heartfelt and well-deserved.