All That Jazz With Judy Carmichael

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Swinger! A Jazz Girl’s Adventures from Hollywood to Harlem chronicles the journey of jazz pianist Carmichael from her beginnings in Pico Rivera, a southern, urban area in Los Angeles County. The collection of comical, autobiographical essays guides readers on the path that led to her career as a jazz virtuoso. She was the first jazz player to be sponsored by the United States government to tour China, in 1992.

“I didn’t get into jazz until I was in my 20s, and then a boyfriend took me to a jazz club,” Carmichael explained. A jazz club since 1949, Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach, California made an impressionable mark on the young creative at first listen. As the months rolled on, Carmichael began receiving albums as gifts and tuned into the art of the music.

Carmichael said, “I was always entrepreneurial. You realize things about yourself if you write them all down. I always wanted to be very interested, wanted to travel, wanted to entertain, speak different languages. So, I really created a career that would allow me to do all these things. The creation of my career has been as creative as my music.”

Swinger! recalls candid, often humorous accounts from one woman’s creative life, from tales of a tedious three-month stint working at the phone company to getting kissed by Paul Newman, and countless adventures in between. It is sprinkled with anecdotes about adventures with Count Basie, Herald Jones, and Sarah Vaughan, and her close friendships with designer Ray Eames and novelist/filmmaker Michael Crichton.

Carmichael’s goal is to inform readers about what a musician’s life is truly like, presenting an alternative to the stereotypes of the romanticized, drug-addicted musician or the mega star. She also hopes those in the industry find similarities within their own stories.

“I pursued acting in my late teens but changed to a music career, because music seemed more honest. I love that you either played or you didn’t. No amount of good lighting will make you sound better and there is nothing casual about playing music at a high level. It is a developed skill that takes years of practice combined with talent, desire, and a freakish level of drive and tolerance for delayed gratification.

“Sophisticated music is appreciated by only a small part of the population and it is constantly being devalued in today’s climate. You have to love it, but you need other skills as well to stay the course,” she added.