Judy Carmichael

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Judy Carmichael
Birth nameJudith Lea Hohenstein
Born (1957-11-27) November 27, 1957 (age 63)
Lynwood, California, U.S.
GenresJazz, ragtime, stride
InstrumentsPiano, vocals
Years active1960s–present
LabelsProgressive, C&D

Judy Carmichael (born November 27, 1957) is a Grammy-nominated jazz pianist and vocalist who is one of the few jazz pianists honored as a Steinway Artist.[1][2][3]

Stride piano[edit]

She specializes in a rare form of pre-1950s jazz, stride piano, a highly physical style of playing first made popular by Fats Waller. The music was long associated with big, powerful—mostly black—men, so when Carmichael first emerged on the scene as a young, thin, white, ex-beauty queen, it was a shock. Count Basie was so taken with her playing that he nicknamed her "Stride". With stride piano, the pianist alternates low bass notes on beats one and three with chords on beats two and four with their left hand [4][5][6] and plays figures and improvised lines with their right. "What made me unusual when I started doing that was that all the people playing stride were big men, and I was a surfer girl from California," she told The New York Times.[5]

Reviewing her first album Two-Handed Stride in 1980, Scott Yanow wrote: "The recording debut of pianist Judy Carmichael was a major, if somewhat unheralded event. The first important stride pianist to emerge in nearly 30 years, Carmichael has proved to be a consistently creative and exciting performer (rather than imitative) within the genre of classic jazz and swing during the years since her debut. For this set (originally out on Progressive and reissued on CD) Carmichael is joined by altoist Marshall Royal, guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Red Callender, and drummer Harold Jones which gives some of the music a Count Basie feel. However, Carmichael's own musical personality was already nearly fully formed by the date. Highlights of the joyous music include "Christopher Columbus", "Honeysuckle Rose", "A Handful of Keys" and "I Would Do Anything for You."

Radio and TV[edit]

On radio, Carmichael has been a guest performer on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, and radio broadcasts on NPR's Morning Edition. She primarily appears on radio as the host of Public Radio's Judy Carmichael's Jazz Inspired, a radio program that interviews creative people from all walks of life who talk about their creative process, and how their interest in jazz has affected that process.[7]

On television, she has appeared on Entertainment Tonight and CBS Sunday Morning, both with host Charles Kuralt and with Charles Osgood.[8]

Her show appears on American public radio, as well as Sirius/XM's NPR Now channel.[7] She also writes articles for JazzTimes.[9] She produced and hosted a fifteen-part series for public radio: Pet Style Radio with Judy Carmichael.[3]

Carmichael is the nationally syndicated host of Judy Carmichael's Jazz Inspired, a National Public Radio show and Sirius/XM show and podcast that debuted in 1993 and broadcasts on over 170 stations throughout North America. It is also broadcast on Sirius XM Satellite Radio's NPR NOW Channel and abroad. The show celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2013.[6] She has interviewed numerous celebrities, including an interview with Raiders of the Lost Ark actress Karen Allen,[10] actor Chevy Chase, singer Tony Bennett, rock pianist Billy Joel, actors John Lithgow, Robert Redford, F. Murray Abraham, and many more.


Early life[edit]

Carmichael was born Judith Lea Hohenstein in suburban Southern California on November 27, 1957.[11] Carmichael was taught piano by her mother beginning around age 4 and continued with two years of formal piano training. Her first public performance on piano, when she was 17, was at UCLA's Royce Hall, sharing billing with Edgar Bergen, Jo Stafford and Paul Weston. Shortly afterwards, she shared a bill with Eubie Blake at a performance for the L.A. ragtime association, The Maple Leaf Club.[11]

Her love of ragtime began when her grandfather offered $50 to his first grandchild who could play "Maple Leaf Rag".

My grandfather said he'd give $50 to any of his grandchildren who could play "Maple Leaf Rag" [...] I told my piano teacher that I wanted to learn it, but she refused to teach it to me. She said I wasn't good enough. So I taught myself. I learned it note by note. As soon as I'd learned it, I played it for my grandfather, took the $50 and quit taking lessons.[12]

Professional career[edit]

Her first professional gig happened at age 19 when a friend told her about a gig on the Pavillion Queen ferry boat, doing cocktail cruises in Newport Beach, California.

She attended California State University at Fullerton as a German Major and later Cal State Long Beach as a Communications Major. She continued as a professional ragtime pianist in her early 20s, eventually shifting to jazz. She performed ragtime and stride at Disneyland for five years.[12][13][14]

There she met trumpeter Jackie Coon, a well known Los Angeles studio musician who encouraged her and then pointed Basie drummer Harold Jones her way when Jones was substituting at Disneyland. Through Jones, she met guitarist Freddie Green and vocalist Sarah Vaughan. She joined their golf foursome, and all of them, Vaughan in particular, encouraged her to make a record.[12]

While shopping for a label in New York City, Carmichael went to hear Roy Eldridge and he asked her to sit in. After hearing her play, Eldridge sent her to Dick Wellstood and to Tommy Flanagan, so they could hear her. Eldridge remained a supporter of Carmichael's, periodically sending her music he wanted her to play.

Carmichael lived in New York and California in the early 1980s, keeping the Disney gig and working L.A. and Manhattan clubs and European festivals, eventually moving to New York full-time in 1985.

Carmichael tried to break into the jazz scene in Los Angeles, but most of the jazz clubs she found were male-dominated, intimidating, and a little unsafe to be a female musician.[citation needed] Carmichael was the first female instrumentalist[citation needed] to be hired by Disneyland (and shared a dressing room with 10 men). No other woman instrumentalist was hired during Carmichael's five years at Disney and she was always the only woman instrumentalist at jazz festivals.[citation needed] She finally shared the stage with another woman when she was a guest on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz in 1988, but another woman onstage wouldn't happen again for over 20 years.[citation needed]

Festivals and concerts[edit]

Carmichael has played major festivals and concert halls throughout the world. She has toured for United States State Department in Australia, India, Portugal, Brazil, Morocco and Singapore. In 1992, she was the first jazz musician sponsored by the United States Government tour to China.[6]

Her performances include Carnegie Hall, Jazz Festival 2008 Brazil,[15] Jazz at Lincoln Center's Fats Waller Festival[15] Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Tanglewood Jazz Festival,[15] and 92d Street Y's Jazz in July.[16]

She made her debut as a vocalist on September 10, 1996 at the Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York City with Steve Ross.[5]

Carmichael, particularly as ambassador and revivalist of a form of jazz that peaked in its mainstream popularity with artists with colorful names like Fats Waller, James P. Johnson, and Willie "The Lion" Smith and Jelly Roll Morton, faded in the memory of all but the most dedicated of jazz aficionados, is known for being one of the most accessible jazz pianists in the business.

I pride myself in making my concerts user-friendly, [...] I want to make the concert seem like I'm playing in their living room. I don't think welcoming means a smoky club atmosphere with dishes crashing in the background and musicians with an off-putting attitude.


In 1980, Carmichael made her recording debut on Progressive and has gone on to record 13 albums to date. Two have been for larger labels. The majority are released on her label, C&D Productions. Her debut album, Two Handed Stride was recorded with Basie sidemen Marshal Royal, Freddie Green, Red Callender, and Harold Jones, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. The compilation of this album and her second, Jazz Piano, were rereleased on a CD compilation on C&D Productions label. Her album Southern Swing (2008) was recorded live at the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz.[18] Her first all vocal CD I Love Being Here With You, released in 2013, was the first where she ceded piano duties to someone else, in this case Mike Renzi (formerly music director for Peggy Lee, Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett and Sesame Street). Carmichael followed with her first CD of originals (music Harry Allen, lyrics Judy Carmichael) Can You Love Once More? Judy & Harry play Carmichael & Allen.

Other work[edit]

She has given private recitals for Rod Stewart, Robert Redford, President Bill Clinton, and Gianni Agnelli.[citation needed] She has appeared with Joel Grey, Michael Feinstein, Dick Hyman, Marcus Roberts, Steve Ross, and the Smothers Brothers.[citation needed]

At her first major European jazz festival in Nice, France, she did two piano concerts with John Lewis, Francois Rilhac and Joe Bushkin. Carmichael has served on a variety of music panels at the NEA. She has spoken before the National Council on the Arts and she has been an advocate for fellowship grants for individual performers.[3] She oversaw music education activities for the Port Jeff Education and Arts Conservancy, a community center in Port Jefferson, New York, near her home of Sag Harbor. In 2000 Carmichael created her own radio show/podcast, Judy Carmichael's Jazz Inspired, which she continues to host and produce. She interviews celebrated artists about their love for jazz and how it inspires them. The show, now in its 17th year is carried on NPR and SiriusXm.[citation needed]

Awards and honors[edit]

Carmichael received several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). With them, her noteworthy projects include a documentary of early jazz musicians, and a project to discuss with college students nationwide the history and development of jazz piano.[11]

Her album Two Handed Stride was nominated for a Grammy Award.


Year recorded Title Label Notes
1980? Two Handed Stride Progressive With Marshal Royal (alto sax), Freddie Green (guitar), Red Callender (bass), Harold Jones (drums)
1983? Jazz Piano Solo piano
1985? Old Friends C&D With Warren Vache (cornet), Howard Alden (guitar)
1985 Pearls Statiras With Warren Vache (cornet), Howard Alden (guitar), Red Callender (bass); reissued by Jazzology[17]
1993? Trio C&D With Michael Hashim (alto sax, soprano sax), Chris Flory (guitar)
1994? And Basie Called Her Stride C&D
1994? Chops C&D Solo piano
1994? Judy C&D With Chris Flory (guitar)
1997? High on Fats and Other Stuff C&D Trio, with Michael Hashim (soprano sax, alto sax), Chris Flory (guitar)
2008? Southern Swing
2012? Come and Get It C&D
2014? I Love Being Here With You CD Baby With Harry Allen (tenor sax), Mike Renzi (piano), Jay Leonhart (bass); Carmichael is on vocals only

Main source:[18]


  • You Can Play Authentic Stride Piano[19]
  • Introduction to Stride Piano[20]

Her arrangement of "Ain't Misbehavin'" appears in an anthology of jazz standards:

  • Steinway & Sons Vol. 4: Piano Stylings of the Great Standards[21]
  • Swinger!: A Jazz Girl's Adventures from Hollywood to Harlem [22]


  1. ^ Judy Carmichael Biography Oldies.com
  2. ^ Steinway Artists
  3. ^ a b Grammy nominated jazz pianist Judy Carmichael to perform Nov 14 at Cleveland State Archived 2013-12-13 at the Wayback Machine, Cleveland Daily Banner, November 10, 2011
  4. ^ Judy Carmichael AllMusic.com
  5. ^ a b c Chronicle by Nadine Brozan, New York Times, September 12, 1996
  6. ^ a b c About Judy Carmichael JudyCarmichael.com
  7. ^ a b Judy Carmichael's Jazz Inspired Website - Home Page
  8. ^ About Judy - Judy Carmichael Website
  9. ^ Judy Carmichael Archived 2014-04-19 at the Wayback Machine on JazzTimes.com
  10. ^ Karen Allen interview
  11. ^ a b c Judy Carmichael Biography Oldies.com - Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin
  12. ^ a b c AND WHERE ONE WOMAN IS PLAYING STRIDE PIANO, John S. Wilson, New York Times, November 15, 1982.
  13. ^ Judy Carmichael - [AllMusic.com AllMusic.com]
  14. ^ As an Ambassador for Stride Piano, She's Spreading Rhythm Around, Brian Wise, New York Times, August 15, 2005
  15. ^ a b c JazzTimes Archived 2014-04-19 at the Wayback Machine - Judy Carmichael Artist Page
  16. ^ 92d Street Y's Jazz in July, John S. Wilson, New York Times, July 31, 1986
  17. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ "Judy Carmichael | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 November 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  19. ^ You Can Play Authentic Stride Piano, Judy Carmichael, Alfred Music, April 1, 2011, 104 pp., ISBN 0739078607, ISBN 978-0739078600
  20. ^ Introduction to Stride Piano, Judy Carmichael, Alfred Music, November, 2001, 42 pp., ISBN 1929009097 ISBN 978-1929009091
  21. ^ Steinway & Sons VOL 4: Piano Stylings of the Great Standards, Ekay Music, Inc.
  22. ^ ’’Swinger!: A Jazz Girl's Adventures from Hollywood to Harlem’’, Judy Carmichael,CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform November 2017, 276 pp., ISBN 1979764417 ISBN 978-1979764414

External links[edit]