London Jazz News
by Peter Vacher, June 11, 2013
I’m tempted to say crazy name, crazy place, especially as Judy Carmichael’s first words on taking the stage were to ask us to applaud its décor. Quite rightly, as this new venue at the heart of Piccadilly Circus is visually stunning, sophisticated and intimate enough for a performer of Carmichael’s class to engage winningly with her audience. And didn’t they delight in this elegant pianist’s command of the stride piano idiom, her laid-back vocals and her cheery interplay with her accompanist, the technically brilliant guitarist Colin Oxley.
Judy didn’t take any time to settle, jumping straight into ‘I Found A New Baby’ at pace, the energy quite electric, throwing cues to Oxley, her stomping foot right on the beat. Judy doesn’t waver, the dynamics just as they should be, the execution spot-on, never more so than in a version of ‘I Got Rhythm’ in which she sought (and succeeded) to replicate the two-piano version put on wax by Fats Waller and Hank Duncan way back. Not unreasonably, considering the sheer physical drive needed for this, she opted next to sing a mellow version of ‘Do Nothing’ away from the piano, Oxley’s perfect chords like a subtle counterpoint.
I’ve observed Ms. Carmichael’s performances over the years in a whole host of settings. Suffice it to say that none has suited her better than this French-style cabaret room, her five-day booking fully endorsed by sell-out crowds whose enthusiasm was unrestrained. Judy is a one-woman force for good; more to the point, she’s a player of extraordinary accomplishment who has made stride piano relevant again. Sings nicely, too.