by ROBERT SHORE
Sunday, August 10, 2008, METRO LONDON
Not many contemporary jazz pianists can boast a nickname given to them by the great Count Basie. Judy Carmichael can, though. The Count was so impressed by the young pianist’s awesome two-fisted technique that he dubbed her ‘Stride’ in reference to her mastery of the pre-World War II solo playing style popularised by Fats Waller.
In the technically and physically demanding stride style, the left hand makes huge octave leaps (or strides) in order to provide percussive accompaniment for the right hand, so dispensing with the need for a conventional rhythm section.
Grammy-nominated Carmichael, named a ‘Steinway Artist’ by the prestigious piano-maker, was the first jazz musician to tour China with US government sponsorship. She has played Carnegie Hall and performed privately for sax-totin’ Bill Clinton. She even has her own radio show – no wonder she’s such a great raconteur on stage.
When Fats Waller died prematurely in 1943, jazz lost its greatest stride player. But in the petite Californian with the phenomenal technique and easy stage manner, the spirit of Waller has in some small but very precious way been reincarnated. There aren’t many stride players around anymore, and none to rival Carmichael. This two-week residency gives Londoners a chance to experience a special piece of jazz history – don’t miss. Mon, Aug 11 until Aug 23, Boisdale of Belgravia, 15 Eccleston Street SW1, Mon to Sat