We are living in a world of musical icons, musicians who inspire with their gifts, performances and longevity. Among them is Dick Hyman. Still going strong in his 80s, this legend of jazz piano now lives with his beautiful and equally talented wife and sculptor, Julia, in Venice.
So, it was no surprise that Hyman turned up, signature hat on head, to present a solo concert at Bradenton’s First United Methodist Church. (This series, by the way, is the deal of the century. It’s free — only a free-will offering is requested — and the list of well-known performers is mind-boggling.)
The concert, slated to start at 4 p.m., was bursting at the seams by 3 p.m., so extra seats were added to the stage. And it was to this over-capacity crowd that Hyman set about playing an almost impromptu program of his — and our — favorites.
Fats Waller was on the menu with a happy mix of ornaments, adornments and trills that turned Hyman’s fingers into a Marilyn Horne in ivory. While his body is classically upright, there’s lots of action in his outer regions as both feet slap the floor in time to the music like a frenzied tap dancer on speed, and his fingers kiss the keys.
There was a request for one of Richard Rodgers’ greatest waltzes, “Out of My Dreams,” and here Hyman gave us a gorgeous legato to contrast with the upcoming group of Joplin rags.
It was about this time my husband leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Dick plays better by accident than most play on purpose.”
It’s true. But it’s hardly an accident that Hyman gets all those notes under his agile fingers. He practices every day, and his classical and jazz background has set him up as the keyboard-and-musical genius he’s become. From rags and stride to the blues, Hyman has a handle on style and technique. In fact, he’s pretty much cornered the market on an inspirational, intellectual pianism that will continue to earn him rave reviews and heartfelt standing ovations.
— June LeBell
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