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Friday, Nov. 10, 2006
LISTENING POST: CD REVIEWS
John Hicks "Sweet Love of Mine"
Special to The Japan Times
When John Hicks died in May, the jazz world lost one of its most masterful artists. Hicks encompassed tradition, finding enough there to fuel a consistent creativity. In his early years, he was equally comfortable bopping with Art Blakey, backing vocalist Betty Carter or digging into blues with Albert King and Little Milton. His last release, "Sweet Love of Mine," is a fitting finale to a significant career.
An imposing presence, when visiting Tokyo his size dominated not only the keyboard, but the entire room. His strength, though, was always a channel for sensitivity and impeccable rhythm. Nowhere was that more true than on his trio recordings of the 1990s that paid tribute to Billy Strayhorn, Sonny Clark and Earl Hines, and other piano greats. His way of blending his own style with theirs was masterful and revealing, as if playing and teaching at the same time.
His final recording is equally multifaceted, with two lovely solo ballads, three swinging Latin numbers, a Tom Jobim cover and the self-penned "Sunset Blues," a final song that is as strong and hopeful as any blues around.