John Hicks – Sweet Love of Mine – High Note

by | Nov 14, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

John Hicks – Sweet Love of Mine –  High Note HCD 7142  2006,    53:44  ****1/2:

(John Hicks, piano; Javon Jackson, tenor sax; Elise Woods; Curtis Lundy, bass; Victor Jones, drums; Ray Mantilla, percussion)

Reviewing the final CD of a famous jazz musician who passes away suddenly is always a difficult task. Such is the case of pianist John Hicks, who recorded this last album just one month before his death. Hick’s brilliant release was recorded in the legendary studio of Rudy Van Gelder on April 5, 2006, and he passed away suddenly on May 10, 2006. Just three days prior to his death he played his last performance at Harlem’s St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, where Hicks’ own father had served as pastor prior to his own death.

Listening to Hicks’ posthumous CD release is a moving experience. It is a mixture of solo piano features- One Peaceful Moment, The Things We Did Last Summer, and Sunset Blues – along with the Latin influenced Peanut Butter Two and Mambo Influenciado, and Woody Shaw’s title track also done to a Latin beat. Adding two classic ballads to the mix, with I Remember Clifford and I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry show the wide repertoire in John’s palette. Even Brazilian music gets John’s attention on the Jobim standard, Once I Loved. None of the song selections are surprising as Hicks played for nearly fifty years in settings ranging from blues bands to jazz groups led by a diverse mix of Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Woody Herman, and Betty Carter.

It was almost like Hicks wanted to make a closing statement in this CD by showing both his influences and talents. His contemplative side is quite evident in the three solo pieces. Javon Jackson has a sumptuous solo on I’ll Guess I’ll Hang Out My Tears to Dry with Hicks providing spare comping leaving Jackson up front before taking over for a poignant solo of his own, then letting Javon resume the gorgeous melody. Jackson shares the spotlight with Hicks’ wife, Elise Wood, on flute, on Sweet Love of Mine.

On Lundy’s Hold It Down, Curtis is given center stage for a full bass workout before Hicks picks up the pace with sparkling piano lines and Jackson and Victor Jones are also featured here. Mambo Influenciado’s Latin beat is provided by both Jones, and Ray Mantilla on percussion, backing Woods’ flute. It’s a pleasant surprise to find the flute playing the normally brass role on the classic I Remember Clifford. Jackson and Wood provide the Latin melody of Peanut Butter Two with Mantilla on percussion providing the needed rhythmic backing.

The CD is closed with Sunset Blues where Hicks can show his blues abilities that he provided to the bands of Albert King and Little Milton. Where Hicks recorded moving tributes in High Note CDs dedicated to the music of Billy Strayhorn, Erroll Garner, Mary Lou Williams, Sonny Clark, and Earl Hines (all highly recommended) – it is a bittersweet ending to his career, with the label providing a CD devoted to John Hicks showing his own inimitable talent in playing a wide range of piano styles. Each is made special by the genius that was taken from us much too early.

Tracklist: One Peaceful Moment, I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry, Sweet Love of Mine, The Things We Did Last Summer, Once I Loved, Hold It Down, Mambo Influenciado, I Remember Clifford, Peanut Butter Two, Sunset Blues

– Jeff Krow

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