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Judy Carmichael: High on Fats

A piano monster with a swinging left hand: bass and drums not needed. Cover photo shows a slim and elegant blonde…who plays, as Milt Glaser puts it, with the “strength of a truck driver and the energy of a tomcat.” Two by Fats: “Gladys” and “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling” and two by Benny: “A Smo-o-oth One” and “Airmail Special.” She’s captured Waller’s pile-driver punch and velocity, but (to these ears) not enough of his beautiful filigree. The avalanche of notes often obscures fine work by Mike Hashim, soprano and alto sax, and Chris Flory, guitar. “Thou Swell,” for example, is taken prestissimo, losing any possible nuance. The non-stop stride is relieved by the moderate tempo and volume of Duke’s “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me.” But most tracks don’t seduce, they overpower: you feel blown back by a joyful, though relentless, force of nature. Fats-o-philes will love this.

Originally Published