Dick Hyman Biography

Richard Hyman, 8 March 1927, New York City, New York, USA. After studying classical music, Hyman broadened his interests to encompass jazz and many other areas of music. In the late 40s he played piano in and around his home-town, working with Red Norvo and Benny Goodman and leading bop musicians, including founding fathers Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Early in the 50s he began a long career as a studio musician, playing piano, arranging, composing and leading orchestras. He was staff pianist at WMCA and WNBC-New York from 1951-57, and music director of Arthur Godfrey And His Friends from 1958-62. His work in the studios did not keep him from actively participating in jazz dates, many of which he himself organized. He enjoyed a US Top 10 hit single in 1956 with ‘Moritat (A Theme From ‘The Three Penny Opera’)’, credited to The ‘Unforgettable’ Sound Of The Dick Hyman Trio. Hyman also became deeply interested in the history of jazz and especially the development of jazz piano. He demonstrated his interest in radio broadcasts and concert performances, with his enormously eclectic taste allowing him to range from ragtime to freeform with complete confidence. Through performances and recordings with the New York Jazz Repertory Company, he encouraged interest in the music of Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, James P. Johnson and Louis Armstrong. He also formed a small group, the Perfect Jazz Repertory Quintet.

During his freeform period Hyman played electric piano and later added the organ and synthesiser to the instruments at his command. From the late 50s through to the early 70s Hyman worked as a musician, arranger and composer for Enoch Light’s Grand Award, Command Records and Project 3 labels, though as he was still contracted to other labels during this period many of his recordings were released under a pseudonymous title. The surprise 1969 US Top 40 hit ‘The Minotaur’, credited to Dick Hyman And His Electric Eclectics, was the first single ever to be entirely performed on a synthesiser.

From the mid-70s onwards, Hyman returned to a more traditional style on solo sessions and duo albums with Ruby Braff such as Cincinnati Fats andManhattan Jazz. Hyman also recorded with Braff using, however improbably in a jazz context, a Wurlitzer organ. Unusual though it might have been, A Pipe Organ Recital Plus One was a critical and popular success. As a composer, Hyman has written for large and small ensembles and composed several movie scores, including Scott Joplin (1977), Stardust Memories (1980), Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose (1984), Purple Rose Of Cairo (1985), Moonstruck (1987), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), and Sweet And Lowdown (1999). He has also worked as artistic director of the Jazz In July concerts in New York. A master of jazz piano, his performances not only display his extraordinary virtuoso technique but also demonstrate his deep understanding and abiding love for the great traditions of the music.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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