Jazz trio find adventure in Juneau


If you’ve heard any jazz or stride piano sounds floating around downtown last week, it was probably from the Judy Carmichael Trio.

Led by Grammy-nominated pianist-singer-songwriter Judy Carmichael who was in town with band members James Chirillo and Dan Block for the Juneau Jazz & Classics Fall Festival.

The Empire sat down with Carmichael and Block, who plays saxophone and clarinet, to discuss what it’s like to resume travel and entertainment as COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift and for hear their thoughts on Juneau.

“I am so impressed with your COVID protocols,” Carmichael said from the start.

She described how efficiently the passengers on her flight went through the testing process at the airport.

Carmichael and Block, who are based in the New York area, both said life on the road is starting to pick up for them, albeit slowly.

“I made a boat in August. Everyone came to the show, ”said Carmichael.

She said about 60 people on a 400-person cruise usually come to the evening show, but people are craving live shows again after COVID-19 pinned travel and live entertainment.

“The public is much more grateful,” she said.

The two agreed that the resumption of live performances is also welcome for the musicians.

“I really missed my friends and playing. I only hire people I love and the music is very intimate, jazz even more so, ”said Carmichael, adding with a laugh that musicians and performers“ tend to be sensitive people ”.

She said she played tennis a lot to pass the time when she couldn’t travel or perform.

Both said New York was starting to come to life.

“The clubs are coming back,” Block said. “Energy is good that way. But, many businesses are closed. Lots of musicians play in Central Park. People are happy to hear people play.

Visit Juneau

Block and Carmichael said they are happy to be in Juneau as small towns offer more intimate places and offer memorable experiences.

“It’s great to be at a festival like this. There is such a personal vibe. You can talk to people and have a personal feeling, ”Block said.

He said the general feeling in Juneau reminded him of P-Town, or Provincetown, Massachusetts-a town at the tip of Cape Cod known for its vibrant arts scene.

Carmichael said the Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival is unusual for several reasons, including the combination of jazz and classical music.

“It is rare to have the combination in the United States,” she said, noting that the mixture is more common in Europe.

She said the personal touches that the festival organizers offer musicians make the festival “a pleasure” to perform.

“Usually people don’t ask if you want to go and see things when you visit,” she said. “I never had anyone in Chicago who asked me if I wanted to see a great Frank Lloyd Wright. Here it’s like “Do you want to walk to a glacier?” ”

Block of agreement.

“I thought, oh boy, Juneau looks like a big adventure,” Block said.

Friday night’s fall storm brought an extra dose of adventure to the trio, but didn’t dampen concert attendance.

A socially distanced but sold-out crowd was in attendance at Saturday’s Puttin ‘on the Ritz concert, which featured the trio as well as violinist Helen Kim; Jasmin Arakawa, pianist; and Zuill Bailey, cellist and artistic director of Juneau Jazz & Classics.

“Thanks for the exciting weather,” Carmichael joked before starting his set.

She said she had experienced sun, clouds, rain, hail and a rainbow in no time while hiking earlier today. She added that Friday night’s blackout added to the adventure.

• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at [email protected] or 907-308-4891.

Members of the Judy Carmichael Trio perform at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center on October 2. Members include Carmichael, left; James Chirillo, guitar, center; and Dan Block, right. (Dana Zigmund / Empire Juneau)

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