Jazz-Inspired Judy Celebrates 20 Years

Judy Carmichael
Judy Carmichael and director Roger Corman.

When looking around for a new podcast, how about an oldie but goodie?

“Jazz Inspired,” independently produced by Sag Harbor’s jazz pianist/raconteur/author/chanteuse Judy Carmichael, is celebrating 20 years on National Public Radio, and Carmichael — who has tickled the ivories for rock stars and rulers — has had a plethora of diversely interesting people on her show, from show biz types like Robert Redford and Seth MacFarlane to architect Frank Gehry and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The show is not about jazz musicians, said Carmichael this week. “I wanted something that would keep me interested, frankly, doing a show where I could bring in all kinds of different artists and come at it differently in terms of inspiration and creativity. That’s a broader subject,” she said. “I mean, Redford — he’s been at this awhile. He’s been asked pretty much every question about his career that anyone could ask. But when I say, ‘I think of your process as a jazz process,’ it’s a whole new subject.”

Carmichael said she studies up on her guests, “and I really think, ‘What about them is different? What will have a bigger meaning for my audience: What will inspire them to find their own creativity?’ That’s what I’m really interested in.”

Her most recent episode, taped toward the beginning of March but airing on 140 NPR affiliates across the country (including Southampton’s 88.3 WPPB-FM) the week of May 2 through May 8, is an interview with horror film legend Roger Corman, best known for the original “Little Shop of Horrors,” which he filmed in two days and one night.

“Roger, who just turned 94, is one of the most engaged human beings I’ve ever met,” Carmichael said. “He really listens, and answers your questions with thought and passion. I was initially surprised,” she said.

Corman, who is sometimes referred to as “the Pope of Pop Cinema,” wasn’t always taken seriously during his career, when he made scads of low-budget films, like the Edgar Allan Poe series with Vincent Price, “Frankenstein Unbound,” “Galaxy of Terror,” or “The Trip,” penned by Jack Nicholson and starring Peter Fonda.

It was said in Hollywood that Corman could negotiate a movie deal over a pay phone, finance it with money from the change slot, and shoot it in the phone booth.

But he managed to jumpstart the show biz careers of names like Nicholson, Diane Ladd, and William Shatner, and mentored other directors like Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, and many more.

It is detailed in his book, “How I Made 100 Films in Hollywood and Never Lost A Dime.”

In his later years, Corman has finally received appreciation for his efforts, heaped with lifetime achievement awards and the subject of a documentary film, “Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel.”

Meeting him at a party in Los Angeles a few months ago brought Carmichael to invite him on the show. Then she found herself woodshedding — watching some of his movies that she hadn’t seen in decades.

“It was funny to watch a bunch of those ‘B’ horror movies again,” she said. “And he’s famous for very short shoots, low budget, and what I thought was, ‘This wasn’t just to save money. What was he getting out of this creatively, to do this, this way?’ And it’s a very jazz process,” she said.

“He has a great sense of humor,” she recounted of her interview. Acknowledging, with gratitude, the many illustrious folks she’s been lucky enough to interview, Carmichael said, “Even in that circle, Roger’s mind is so interesting. And the connections he makes, where we went in the conversation — I’m really proud of it. When we finished, Roger’s assistant said she had never seen him that happy,” Carmichael said with a laugh.

“I think it’s more important than ever for people to tap into their creativity right now,” urged Carmichael. “Artists have an unusually high tolerance for uncertainty and delayed gratification. So, this is our time to learn things, to create things.”

For more about Carmichael, her website is www.judycarmichael.com. To listen to her dozens of previous interviews and learn more about “Jazz Inspired,” the site is www.jazzinspired.com.

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