Dick Hyman On Piano Jazz

Piano Jazz celebrates its 30th anniversary with a return visit from pianist, composer and arranger Dick Hyman, who appeared on the show during its first season in 1979. Always the fleet-fingered pianist and versatile musician, Hyman performs Gershwin, Jobim and a James P. Johnson rag before winding up the hour playing an improvised blues tune with host Marian McPartland.

Written by David Lyon from National Public Radio

The friendship between Marian McPartland and Dick Hyman goes back over 30 years — the two say they most likely met for the first time in the 1960s at the Cookery, an old Greenwich Village jazz club. Four-hand piano duets there eventually led to another periodic musical partnership that included the late classical pianist Ruth Laredo. McPartland, Hyman and Laredo would get together over the years for special “crossover” concerts in which a Harold Arlen tune might lead directly to a Chopin prelude. (There’s a sample program and a review of one of these concerts available at Laredo’s Web site.)

Versatility has been one of Hyman’s calling cards. His amazing chops and inquisitive mind have guided him into explorations of various styles of jazz. His Piano Jazz performance is indicative of his various stylistic interests, as he kicks off the show with Antonio Carlos Jobim‘s Latin classic “Jazz and Samba,” which he follows with an original called “Thinking About Bix,” a tribute to jazz icon Bix Beiderbecke. A similar juxtaposition follows when Hyman plays the romantic theme he wrote for a Woody Allen film, The Purple Rose of Cairo, before performing the bouncy “Caprice Rag” by James P. Johnson.

Hyman is the kind of player who’s up for McPartland’s challenge to play a free piece. Oddly enough, the formless improv eventually takes on some structure — “with some sanity to it,” to quote McPartland. The improvisation process, which Hyman poetically describes as a kind of “courtship,” emerges again as the two old friends wind up the hour with a blues in G.

Originally recorded Dec. 2, 2008.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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