With the publication of her memoir Swinger! A Jazz Girl’s Adventures from Hollywood to Harlem, Judy Carmichael has added one more title to her already over-full résumé. The pianist and host of the long-running radio show Judy Carmichael’s Jazz Inspired tells her life story in a breezy and often funny book that nonetheless contains plenty of family dysfunction, career challenges, and moments of absurdity.
No less than Count Basie called her “Stride,” a sobriquet that hasn’t necessarily stuck but certainly goes a long way in explaining her unique approach to jazz piano, strongly rooted in the stride style yet not limited to it. Carmichael also had a personal relationship with Sarah Vaughan, who, like Basie, accepted and even championed the young pianist. Stories about her formative experiences with each of those jazz giants enrich Swinger!, but the book is about much more than her brushes with greatness.