Jazzing it up on the fly by JESSICA NICHOLAS, Reviewer
Bennets Lane Jazz Lab, February 27, 2007
When Judy Carmichael performed at the 2007 Wangaratta Jazz Festival, she shared the stage with two Melbourne musicians she had never met. The American stride pianist barely had time for a run-through with Stephen Grant (cornet) and John Scurry (guitar) before the show, but the concert was such a success that it has since been released on CD. So when Carmichael returned, it’s not surprising that she invited Scurry and Grant to perform with her in Melbourne. Once again, she eschewed rehearsal, and once again Grant and Scurry proved to be strikingly adept at following her on-the-spot arrangements. At Bennetts Lane last Friday, Carmichael would call a tune and a key from the piano, then launch confidently into the melody or rhythm as her colleagues shaped parts for themselves on the fly. “It’s like walking a tightrope,” the bandleader told us gleefully after one high-speed trio number. “It might sound as though we have an arrangement, but it’s really just a hope.” Carmichael is a natural entertainer, and the stride piano style (where the left hand “strides” rhythmically across the keyboard) is a perfect match for her buoyant personality. With the piano providing such a clear rhythmic impetus, Scurry’s guitar role was limited, though he played a memorable solo on Honeysuckle Rose. Grant’s cornet, on the other hand, was one of the night’s most compelling elements, artfully echoing Carmichael’s lines or providing a spirited, syncopated commentary of its own.