Tag Archive | "Judy Carmichael"

Pianist’s Spreading The Gospel of Jazz

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By Annette Hinkle

Judy Carmichael performing web

Judy Carmichael is a woman on a mission. The jazz pianist travels the world bringing the distinctly American music to audiences who don’t often get to hear it. Among the places she’s been or will be this year are Brazil, Australia, Switzerland and England.

But this weekend, she’s just happy to be back home in Sag Harbor where she’ll offer a concert at the Old Whalers’ Church. Carmichael finds that playing here is like no where else in the world.

“I’m going to sing more than usual, including a bunch of new tunes. It will be all jazz standards,” says Carmichael who has an album coming out in the fall. “I’ve got my ‘A’ team – Harry Allen on sax, Chris Flory on guitar.”

Carmichael loves playing the Old Whalers’ Church. In fact, she notes that she was the first performer to see the church as a musical venue back in 1992 when she played for a Chamber of Commerce event.

“People thought it was just weird, but I liked it because it was big — a very cool place and bright,” recalls Carmichael. “I’ve played in lots of churches. They’ve got a good vibe, though I feel odd saying that.”

Since then, there have been many concerts at Old Whalers’ and Carmichael notes every time she performs there, she can count on something unusual occurring.

“Because I live here, when I play in Sag Harbor crazy things happen,” says Carmichael. “It’s casual and I’m excited to be home because I’m gone so much. Last year my friend who plays accordion and produces for Sting and Esperanza Spalding was in the audience. He’s this famous guy in the pop world and I told him to bring his accordion and he did. It was hilarious.”

“I would never do that anywhere else. When I’m here, I talk to the audience in a different way. My guys look forward to coming here, they never know what’s going to happen,” she adds. “It really does feel like a family thing. I feel embraced here.”

Saturday’s performance is a benefit for the Community House Fund at Old Whalers’ and Carmichael stresses she is making this concert an annual event because she feels it’s vital that the community support the church as a center for culture and history. It’s just one of the many causes important to her. Another is sharing her love for jazz and making connections with audiences — especially young people.

Education has always been an important facet of Carmichael’s work and it’s paying off. Through her non-profit organization “Jazz: Listening for Life,” Carmichael is bringing music directly to young people in schools and other institutions.

“My motto is discovering the joy of listening, which I think is also true in conversation. It’s music as metaphor teaching people to listen more,” she says.

“It’s also a vehicle for people to see and get excited by jazz,” adds Carmichael who, each August, travels to South America to take part in the “I Love Jazz Festival of Brazil.” She is the artistic advisor of the festival which is organized by Marcelo Teixeira Da Costa, a young Brazilian jazz musician.

“I’ve insisted on going into the schools while I’m there, he’s insisted on making these open concerts that we do for free,” says Carmichael. “When I’m there, I’ll have 10,000 people listening and he’s presenting all of this to a younger generation.”

“When people say the jazz audience is getting older, I assertively reach out for a younger audience,” adds Carmichael who is excited by the interest the next generation is now showing in jazz, particularly in places outside the United States.

“I’ve found that young people in England will take a risk more than young people will here,” she says. “They’ll have a big night out and spend $40 dollars each to hear jazz. That’s one of the things I’m working on that jazz hasn’t done well — which is bridging that disconnect. When people hear it they love it, but its getting it out there. It’s up to the musicians to figure out how to be entrepreneurial.”

The reception she received from young people on a recent trip to England has led her to ask why they are so open to it and how she can get more young people here interested in the music as well. One way she’s bridging that gap is through her radio show “Jazz Inspired,” in which Carmichael interviews both celebrities and professional musicians about their connection to jazz. She now finds that many younger listeners are discovering jazz, not in the clubs, but through iTunes.

“A lot of 25 year olds come up and say, ‘You’re my first jazz experience. How can I hear more?’ So they download stuff,” says Carmichael. “I get 3,000 downloads a week on iTunes which for someone like me with not a big ad budget is a lot.”

She finds that much of what is being downloaded by the under 35 crowd is not celebrity interviews, but those Carmichael has done with up and coming jazz musicians.

Carmichael will make another connection with audiences on Saturday, September 3, when she travels to the Tanglewood Jazz Festival in Massachusetts to record a special installment of “Jazz Inspired.” Her special guest will be actress Blythe Danner and the show will be recorded in front of a live audience in Seiji Ozawa Hall.

“It’s very exciting – Blythe had a jazz band at Bard and Chevy Chase was the drummer,” says Carmichael. “The significant thing was she was friends with Bill Evans – he’s an iconic person in my world and one of the most famous. I met him one month before he died. In college she used to go hear him play.”

Carmichael will also give Danner an opportunity to do something in public she hasn’t done in years— sing jazz. Carmichael recalls that Danner once told her about a planned appearance on The Tonight Show. Danner, who is considered an actress, not a singer, said she would do the show only if she was permitted to sing Dave Frishberg’s “Peel Me A Grape” with Frishberg accompanying her. Producers said she wouldn’t be allowed to do that on the show — so she never did.

But at Tanglewood, Carmichael is finally giving Danner an opportunity to perform the song, as well as another tune with Mike Renzi, Peggy Lee’s accompanist, playing with her.

“I think of these shows as a fun way to have people do things they don’t normally do – and bring in surprising people in you don’t normally think of with jazz,” says Carmichael. “It’s at the end of the summer — open and relaxed. It’s how we are out here, people will do things they don’t normally do and I think that’s when the most interesting things happen creatively.”

Judy Carmichael kicks of the Old Whalers Summer Concert Series at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 18. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students and seniors). A $60 ticket includes pre-concert cocktail party and premium seating. To purchase, call 725-0894 or visit www.oldwhalerschurch.org.

Music May Hath Charms to Save Historic Church

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By Andrew Rudansky


After hard financial times The Old Whaler’s Church is now looking to turn the corner, and with a new pastor at the helm, it looks like they may be doing just that. This Saturday, June 5, the church kicks off a new concert series to help raise money for The Community House of the Old Whalers’ Church, a newly created fund. The evening begins with a 5:30 p.m. cocktail party at the Sag Harbor home of Lindsay and John Landes followed by a 7 p.m. performance by jazz pianist and vocalist Judy Carmichael at the church. This is the first of many concerts planned at the church throughout the summer featuring a diverse mix of genres and performers that the church congregation hopes will appeal to a wide audience. All of the money raised by the Community House Fund will go toward keeping the Old Whalers’ Church open and operational for the various community groups it houses.

Reverend Mark F. Phillips, who was recently brought on as the permanent pastor of the Presbyterian congregation, said the money is vital for the continuing operation of the church as a community center. He said that when he first joined the congregation in April, “The church was in danger of closing in a manner of months.” However, according to Rev. Phillips, thanks to the community and an increase in the church’s congregation, as well as the success of church sponsored programs like the Great Chefs Cooking Series, the Old Whalers’ Church is seeing its way out of the global recession.

 But the church is not out of the water yet. Rev. Phillips explained that without this additional source of revenue from The Community House Fund the church, built by architect Minard Lafever in 1844 and now a National Historic Landmark, could easily be closed in less than five years. Rev. Phillips said that the work at the church continues to be “a challenge,” but one made easier by the help of the officers and congregation at the church.

The new fund is called The Community House Fund, because as Rev. Phillips put it, the church is a “home for the community.” Currently the church houses an Alcoholics Anonymous program, a Girl Scout troop, an English as a Second Language program, the Sag Harbor Food Pantry, Southampton Town counseling programs, a Spanish language congregation — Comunidad Cristiana Internacional — the Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons, and several other programs. While some of these groups donate money to the church in order to help with operating costs, this money does little to help with the church’s mounting financial concerns. 

 “There is always somebody [in the church],” said Rev. Phillips, who added this is something neither he nor the church wants to change. Despite the church’s financial difficulties it was imperative for them to not cut a single program, and instead keep their doors open to everyone in the community. Rev. Phillips said he makes it a point to welcome any community group who wishes to use the building as a meeting place.

“All money goes to the community, to keep the building open. None of the money raised for The Community House Fund will go to the Presbyterian congregation at the Old Whalers’ Church,” said Rev. Phillips who added that funds raised are slated to go to practical renovations like fixing the building’s plumbing or paying bills to keep the structure open.

“It’s not going to pay my salary,” Rev. Phillips joked.

Carmichael has performed at the Old Whalers Church on two previous occasions, the first time back in 1993 when the church presented its first music concert. 
“I spend over 200 days a year on the road, so any chance to perform in my home town is a gift. I'm looking forward to this tremendously,” she said. 
Carmichael calls herself an architecture buff, someone who appreciates the history of her home town and the Old Whalers Church. 
“It's essential for those of us who live here to contribute to [the church’s] maintenance, which the funds raised with this concert will do,” said Carmichael of the Community House Fund. On stage Carmichael will be joined by her longtime guitarist Chris Flory and a special surprise guest. 

This concert is certainly not the first to be hosted by the Old Whalers’ Church and over the years the building has garnered a reputation as one of the best venues around, acoustically speaking. Every year The Choral Society of the Hamptons performs in the sanctuary at the Old Whalers’ Church, their next performance there will be a summer concert on Sunday, July 18. In addition, Sag Harbor’s legendary jazz saxophonist Hal McKusick has offered a number of concerts at the church with his bands over the years and The Perlman Music Program, a group started by Itzhak and Toby Perlman that provides musical training to young musicians, will hold a concert at the church on Friday, August 13.

Even though he’s been in Sag Harbor little more than a month, Rev. Phillips is optimistic about the future of the church.

“In my short time here I see that there is a sense of excitement, enthusiasm, and expectation” said Rev. Phillips. “There is a renewal of life in this building.”

In the months since he arrived, Rev. Phillips said that attendance has doubled, “Everyone here feels a new chapter has started in the life of this church.”

Tickets to Judy Carmichael’s concert at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 5 at $35. A $50 ticket includes priority seating at the concert and admission to the 5:30 p.m. cocktail party at the Bluff Point Road home of Lindsay and John Landes. For details, call Lillian Woudsma a 329-2151.