Category: Hyman Dick

Dick Hyman: The Beat Goes On

The legendary Dick Hyman turned 86 years old earlier this month, and he is as busy as ever. In this lengthy recent AllAboutJazz interview, the versatile pianist discusses everything from Fred Astaire to Shostakovitch to Moog synthesizers. From the interview: 

AAJ: You did a series of solo albums devoted to such composers as Cole Porter, George Gershwin and so on, including Duke Ellington. Would you share your thoughts on Ellington as a composer, and as a pianist?

DH: Well, the Ellington project was a little bit different from the others, “the others” including Gershwin, Porter, Arlen, Rodgers, and Berlin. Ellington’s tunes were ingenious, and more to the point, they came out of a jazz background. You can’t say that for some of the others—you can make them into jazz, and they’re wonderful vehicles for jazz playing, such as Richard Rodgers’ earlier songs with Lorenz Hart—but Ellington was already there, in the jazz world, when he composed his pieces.

 On that Ellington album I liked going back to some of the things he did in the 1920s, as well as his later standard songs. Some of the older ones are very much like the trial improvs that a jazzman would make in approaching a set of chords. Ellington has a certain catalog of devices he’ll apply to a series of harmonies. Which is the jazz way: You take a set of chords and pretty soon, after you’ve tried them out a number of times and probably changed them a bit, you start to make up your own melody, as opposed to the other process of decorating and embellishing the original melody.

Click here to read Dick Hyman: The Beat Goes On  

Dick Hyman in 2010

Continuing this week with interviews from Marc Myers at his award winning JazzWax blog, here is a great 2010 interview with virtuoso pianist and human player piano Dick Hyman. In this three part interview, Hyman speaks about growing up in New York; taking lessons from Teddy Wilson; the importance of Jo Jones’ smile; Lester Young; playing behind Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie; recording one of Coleman Hawkins’ most unusual and sole easy-listening sessions; recording on the organ and Moog synthesizer; and working with Benny Goodman, Woody Allen and Norman Jewison. Whew.

From the interview:

JazzWax: When you were playing with Lester Young in the 1950s, what did you notice most about his playing?

Dick Hyman: By then, Lester was at the point where his playing had become different, more sad than the peppy lines he had played on early Count Basie recordings. He had gotten into slowish tempos—which still swung, but his style was less incisive and more oozy. My experience playing with Lester allowed me to develop a different set of values when playing.

Click here to read Dick Hyman in 2010