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Dick Hymans Century of Jazz Piano by Dick Hyman

A painstakingly-accurate performance by a jazz repertory orchestra can leave you with the feeling that something is missing. A fact-filled chronological presentation of jazz history may have you wondering "when will we get to 1927?" History is more than dates; imitation contradicts the very essence of jazz - improvisation. Dick Hyman knows that. This is why I was awed by a lecture-concert of his more than a few years ago and why I feel the same way about Dick Hyman's Century of Jazz Piano.

Hyman's versatility and experience results in an insightful survey of jazz piano from the early hints of Gottschalk to the percussion of Cecil Taylor. This boxed set includes five CDs, a DVD and a 40-page booklet including his remarks on the discs and summary notes for each performance covering his approach to the styles of these piano masters.

The set opens with ragtime and the pioneering stride piano of James P. Johnson. On the second disc, emphasis is placed on Gershwin as a pianist, "novelty piano" including Bix's lovely "In a Mist", Fats Waller, Willie the Lion and Teddy Wilson. From Disc three on the treatment becomes more impressionistic. There we are exposed to Ellington and Strayhorn. (Hyman somehow duplicates their four-handed "Tonk" with his two!), Basie, Garner, Dave McKenna, Bud Powell and Horace Silver. Disc four honors Monk (variations on five of his compositions), Brubeck, McPartland, Hancock, Corea, Evans, Tristano and most of the final CD is devoted to unstructured free improvisation a la Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and Cecil Taylor, impressions of Hyman's keyboard partners and his 1982 "in the manner of" etudes for jazz piano.

The DVD contains four bonus performances and a baker's dozen of hands-on lessons by Hyman. The lessons are ideal for pianists who wish to work the styles of the jazz piano greats into their repertoire. However, spend some time with them even if you can't play a note. They will enhance your understanding of this jazz history and the remarkable abilities of Dick Hyman.

Incidentally, most of the solos were recorded in the late nineties for a CD-ROM, now discontinued, with the same title. We should be grateful that Arbors Records recognized the possibilities of this multi-disc set, working from the original recordings preserved by Hyman's Diskclavier-equipped Yamaha grand piano.

A fantastic trip with just the right guide. Enjoy!

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Dick Hyman
  • CD Title: Dick Hymans Century of Jazz Piano
  • Genre: Various Jazz Styles
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Arbors
  • Rating: Five Stars
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