On Saturday night I was invited to attend the Sundance Under The Stars summer music concert series. It’s in a small amphitheater setting just off the ski run at Sundance Ski Resort in Utah. This summer Sundance is featuring a handful of jazz artists playing in the absolutely stunning outdoor setting.
It was my pleasure to listen to Judy Charmichael with a trio of jazz artists. Judy Charmichael is a master of jazz Stride Piano. The musicians who were playing in the jazz quartet were Ed Ornowski – Drums, Mike Hashim – Soprano and Alto Sax and Chris Flory – Guitar. They are all very skilled at what they do and function so well together that they really come across as a band of equals. It was very satisfying for me, as a musician, to see such effective synergy between musicians.
It’s obvious that Judy is the star of the show and she was a pleasure to listen to. Her playing really carries a lot of the rhythm of the music and it gives the other musicians a lot of freedom to add solos and rhythmic punctuation. She has a lovely jazz voice and hearing her sing was a highlight of the night. She makes what she’s doing on piano look effortless. Ed, the drummer, has a really good feel for where to accent what Judy is doing on piano. He doesn’t overpower the music though at times I would have liked him to kick in with a stronger beat. That’s probably just the rock musician in me coming out. That being said, his playing was excellent and his drum solos were very musical. I was surprised at how many tones he got out of his drums using a combination of brushes, sticks, mallets and bare hands.
Mike, the sax player, played some very entertaining solos. He has incredible control of his saxophones and did some runs where he would bend each note an entire step into the next note making it sound like a continuous slide down the scale. He also had a very distinctive hat. The guitarist, Chris, played a Gibson L7 Archtop with a FHC DeArmond pickup. He was playing through a Fender Twin Reverb amplifier. The guitar looked like it was made in either the 1940’s or 1950’s and it sounded great. Traditional jazz throatiness. Chris was very skilled in soloing and backing Judy up. He had a fantastic feel for dynamics and when to turn up and when to lay back.
The thing that stood out the most to me, like usual, was how much better music sounds live than on recordings. Being in an intimate setting like that, close to the musicians with good acoustics really brings out the complexity in music. It makes me realize how much is really lost in the recording process. There is so much pleasure in listening to great music played by great musicians. The Judy Charmichael concert at Sundance was truly a joy to attend. If you ever get a chance to see her, go!
You can check out some of Judy Carmichael’s recordings from Amazon.com for the low, low price of $8.99. She’s also written several instructional books teaching the art of Stride Piano. Check them out below…