Dick Hyman: The Beat Goes On

Playing a performance of World-Class Jazz, is leader Pianist Dick Hyman '02 in the Fillius Events Barn at Hamilton College, in Clinton, NY on Friday, October 5, 2012. (PHOTO BY MEGAN P. HAMAN)

Chris M Slawecki:

Composer, arranger, bandleader, pianist, soloist and accompanist Dick Hyman has already lived several jazz lifetimes, and as he contemplates his 86th birthday in March 2013, his career shows no sign of slowing down.

A New York City native, Hyman served as pianist with a Dixieland band and with Lester Young at the December 1949 opening of Birdland. He served as pianist for Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie when they blew through "Hot House" on network TV in 1952 (the only known surviving video with audio of Parker).

If you add up his own live and studio sessions, orchestral compositions, and movie soundtracks and scores, you will find more than 100 titles under Dick Hyman's name. Early recordings such as Dick Hyman & His Trio (1961, Command) featured impeccable jazz turns through showtunes and standards by Cole Porter, Fats Waller and Rodgers & Hammerstein, all of whom continue to inspire his piano playing. The Eclectic Electrics of Dick Hyman (1969, Varese) stood among the first albums to explore the Moog synthesizer, and even scored a Billboard hit single ("The Minotaur"). In 1977, he recorded A Child is Born (Chiaroscuro), a solo piano album that transfigured its title track into the styles of eleven different pianists. A subsequent series of solo albums brilliantly reflected upon the compositions of Porter, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, George Gershwin and other writers of the Great American Songbook.

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