Rifftides reader Don Emanuel writes from Gillingham, Kent, in England:
There is a fascinating six-part thing on YouTube (obviously from a British TV programme) by Dick Hyman on a brief history of jazz piano, which I managed to miss when it was originally broadcast.
I missed it, too. As far as I know, it did not run in the US. Hyman long ago established himself as a wizard at replicating other pianists’ styles. He could easily have done the program alone, but the writer and musician Russell Davies serves as the low-key host and interlocutor. In what was an hour program, Hyman and Davies take us in eight- to ten-minute segments from Louis Moreau Gottschalk in 1855 to Cecil Taylor six minutes ago. Along the way, Hyman demonstrates the innovations of at least a baker’s dozen of the players who formed the jazz piano tradition.
Don’t be put off by the cornball title of the program, The Honky Tonk Professor. The show is serious and seriously entertaining. To save you the trouble of roaming around the YouTube site, rounding up the segments, the Rifftides staff has assembled links to the six parts. Just click on them, one at a time.
Near the end, Davies asks Hyman to play in his own style, “if you can remember who you are, after all that.” Hyman remembers, and plays brilliantly, as always. I’m sorry not to be able to see the hour as a continuum, but YouTube‘s digital load limits dictate breaking it into segments. If it is available on DVD, I haven’t been able to discover where. Mat Domber, the major domo of Arbors Records, reports, “We are working with Dick on a 5 CD History of Jazz piano along the same lines as the broadcast, only expanded.”
To hear Hyman as Hyman, rather than as a team of Doppelgängers, I recommend this trio CD with guitarist Howard Alden and the late bassist Bob Haggart.
I am grateful to Don Emanuel for calling the Hyman program to our attention. Rifftides could function without help from its readers, but not nearly as well. Your comments and tips are always welcome.
Bill Crow says
Many thanks for posting the Hyman links! What a lovely pair of hands, and what an amazing intellect! I was surprised that he went right past Lennie Tristano, who was such an influence on Bill Evans, but he cut a wide swath, and tied everything together so beautifully in a short time.
I treasure the memory of Sundays at the Eddie Condon’s on 54th Street, where for a while Dick gave demonstrations of piano style. Each set would be in a different mode, and played exquisitely.