John Hicks, piano/Buster Williams, bass/Louis Hayes, drums – On the Wings of an Eagle – Chesky Records Multichannel SACD318, 1 hour ****:
This delightful trio recording was made in Chesky’s frequent venue for recordings – NYC’s St. Peter’s Episcopal Church – in March of 2006 and John Hicks passed away in May 2006. He had been appearing with this same trio most of the first years of this new century, but his long career encompassed solos, duos, quartets, and bands such as Woody Herman’s. Hicks also had played in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and accompanied vocalist Betty Carter.
The nine tunes here will likely not duplicate tunes in most collections. Probably the most heard would be Sammy Cahn’s Dedicated to You. Some of the jazz greats represented as composers here include Gigi Gryce, Donald Byrd, Dexter Gordon and Tommy Flanagan. A Monk tune always seems to perk up any program, and in midst of this one is a bouncing Balues-Bolivar-Balues-Are. Bassist Williams contributes two tunes: his Strivers Jewels and Christina, and the session closes out with Hick’s own As Bird Fly, which is a tribute to another great pianist, Cedar Walton, and one of the two tunes which seem to tie in with the album title – a last-recording tribute to the great John Hicks.
Surround sonics are up to Chesky’s usual high standards, with excellent balance and a sensible layout of the three players on the sound stage, plus very realistic acoustics in the church environment.
TrackList: Minority, Fly Little Bird Fly, Strivers Jewels, Balues-Bolivar-Balues-Are, Cheese Cake, Dedicated to You, Minor Mishap, Christina, As Bird Fly (Walton’s Mountain)
– John Henry