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Hamptons Life

Oct 9, 2017 5:19 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Judy Carmichael To Perform 'Sexy Songs And Lovely Laments' At Bay Street On October 14

Judy Carmichael takes a bow.
Oct 10, 2017 10:30 AM

Judy Carmichael is not one to back down from a challenge—especially when it comes to love.

She knows about passion and romance, and lives by her unstoppable zest for life. She also knows heartbreak and grief, and the lyrics of her songs speak to this wide range—with one clear omission.

“I refuse to write about defeat,” said the jazz pianist, who will perform at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor on Saturday, October 14. “I just think that’s really important in this day, and I didn’t grow up in that era.

“I grew up in the era of women running the other way when a monster came. Now, I’m thrilled—the woman’s the one slaying the dragon, and I was always slaying the dragon and I saw myself that way. But I had to fight for that.”

The California native moved to New York in 1985, kick-starting an international career that would take her to Europe, South America, Asia and eventually the East End, where she and her sweetheart bought a little cottage in Noyac—which now belongs to her after she bought him out following their amicable split, she said.

But that didn’t make her crave Manhattan—its lights, its music, its energy—any less.

“I wasn’t very happy to move east, to be honest,” Ms. Carmichael said, noting that she now lives in Sag Harbor. “I thought I’d moved to Siberia—beautiful Siberia. But I started playing golf and tennis, and I got very involved with the community and whatever music scene already existed, which was barely anything. That’s when it all changed.”

It was 1992. Bay Street Theater had just opened its doors the year prior, and she would be its first musical act. “At the time, everyone thought that was an extraordinarily odd idea—including Bay Street,” she said with a laugh. “They were only looking at themselves as presenting plays.”

Their tune quickly changed, as did the Old Whalers’ Church, also in Sag Harbor, and, before she knew it, so did hers. She had carved out her very own music scene as she became infatuated with a place she thought she could never love.

“I travel about 200 days a year,” she said. “And when I get home, I am home. I’m at peace. I love coming here.”

When she returns to her first East End stage on Saturday night for her concert, “Sexy Songs and Lovely Laments,” she will bring a set of standards by the likes of Gershwin, Cole Porter, Fats Waller and Peggy Lee, as well as originals off her latest album, “Can You Love Once More?”

“I’m also debuting a new blues song, ‘All Hat, No Cattle,’” she said. “It’s a Southern phrase about guys who brag a lot but they have nothing to back it up. Don’t you love that? I’ve never performed that, so that would be one of my laments. It’s kind of a theme that way, of love songs complaining, and not complaining, and romantic, and I’ll have my quartet with me.”

A Steinway artist who first sat down behind a piano at age 4, Ms. Carmichael started singing only about nine years ago.

“There are a lot of reasons for that, but one of them was, I grew up with a lot of songs that I call, ‘He hit me, he yelled at me, he abused me, but I still love him,’ songs—and I hated all of them,” she said. “They’re not songs we would sing now, but they’re basically the woman who sticks by her man no matter how much he abuses her, or ‘I can’t find a man because I’m kind of pathetic.’ No one wants to say those songs are that way, but you know I’m right. Any woman knows that. There’s a lot of songs where the woman is hopeless and hoping she’ll get a guy.

“When I started writing, I realized that everything I wrote no matter what, they would be about happy, joyful love, or heartbreak, or hope,” she said. “But none of them was about defeat.”

Judy Carmichael will perform “Sexy Songs and Lovely Laments” on Saturday, October 14, at 8 p.m. at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. Tickets range from $35 to $55. For more information, call 631-725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.

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