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Judy Carmichael: High On Fats -Review

from CADENCE, February 1998:


Judy Carmichael, piano; with Mike Hashim, sax; Chris Flory, guitar

Reviewed by Larry Nai

Can't say as I recall seeing actor F. Murray Abraham or novelist E. L. Doctorow writing blurbs for Jazz releases, but with the talent gathered here, they won't get any arguments from me. Among the "other stuff" Carmichael and company dish out is one of the loveliest versions of Ellington's "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me" that I've heard in a long time. The piano player takes the first minute and a half by herself, working from a brief rubato opening, before Chris Flory joins in the soft strumming. Mike Hashim meets up with them at the three-minute mark with his Hodges-inflected alto for a bluesy turn, alternately purring and punching, then Flory single-strings a loping spare solo, and the three go for a final chorus. The track points up the synchronicity of mind and heart that makes this trio work so well...

There's an awful lot of history in these grooves (excuse me, bits) and the seasoned listener will hear echoes of Ellington and the afore-mentioned Rabbit, as well as Christian, Bechet, Tatum, Basie...and I swear there are moments where Hashim almost sounds like Arthur Blythe with that hard alto tone of his. The history's not just in the song choices, either - the players are authoritative, with chops, feeling, and humor aplenty. Fats the writer is represented by the swinging "Gladyse", where Hashim uses a pinched, nasal soprano tone that effectively captures Waller's capricious refinement, and a tender-with-teeth "I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling." They also work up a delicious froth on "Thou Swell", and rock "Airmail Special" so hard that a drummer would probably just get in the way. The two takes of "A Smo-o-th One" are practically identical structurally, but are distinguished by the high level of interaction and invention on display throughout...

I can't imagine Carmichael playing more assertively than she does here; she simply infuses everything she does with energy, spirit, and panache. Hopefully there's more to come from this wonderful trio - highly recommended.