Music » Critics' Picks

John Hicks

Wednesday, May 12, through Saturday, May 15; Jazz at the Bistro


Almost from the very beginning of his career in jazz, pianist John Hicks has been in such high demand as an accompanist that it's a wonder he has time to lead his own ensemble.

Born in Atlanta and raised mostly here in St. Louis, Hicks attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City and Boston's Berklee School of Music before moving to New York in the mid-'60s. He soon became a classic-jazz apprentice to drummer Art Blakey, vocalist Betty Carter and big-band leader Woody Herman. Since then, Hicks has built a reputation as a versatile and prolific player through performances and recordings with musicians including Charles Mingus, Kenny Dorham, Archie Shepp, Lou Donaldson, Joe Henderson, David Murray, Arthur Blythe, Sonny Rollins, Pharoah Sanders and Larry Coryell.

Amazingly, Hicks has also found the time and energy to record three dozen albums as a leader, exploring musical contexts ranging from solo performances to small groups to his own big band. In recent years he's paid tribute to some of his pianist predecessors with recordings of music associated with Erroll Garner, Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams and Sonny Clark, and he has also engaged in an ongoing personal and musical partnership with flutist Elise Wood. For his gig at the Bistro, Hicks is scheduled to be joined by Louis Nash on drums and frequent collaborator Curtis Lundy on bass. Both men are savvy jazz veterans with résumés that rival Hicks' own, and they have all the skills needed to provide intelligent and nuanced backing for the renowned pianist's lyrical touch, muscular technique and encyclopedic knowledge of jazz styles. It's always a pleasure to welcome Hicks back home, and a four-night stand with such well-seasoned musicians in an intimate space offers especially bright prospects for some high-quality music-making.

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