John Hicks Day

December 21, 1941 – May 10, 2006


A tribute to the underrated but valuable pianist

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Pianist John Hicks was born on December 21, 1941 in Atlanta, Georgia.

He began playing the piano when he was around six, took organ lessons, sang in choirs, and had short periods playing violin and trombone.

Hicks grew up in St. Louis, worked during summers with Little Milton and Albert King, and moved to New York in 1963.

After accompanying Della Reese, Hicks toured with the Al Grey-Billy Mitchell band, worked with Pharoah Sanders, Jimmy Witherspoon and Kenny Dorham and was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers during 1964-66.

Hicks also worked with Betty Carter, the Woody Herman Orchestra and recorded with Booker Ervin, Sonny Simmons, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Oliver Lake and Charles Tolliver.

A flexible pianist able to play anything from hard bop to free jazz, Hicks began recording as a leader in 1975, had second stints with Blakey and Carter (1976-80), worked with many top artists (including Richie Cole, Arthur Blythe, David Murray, Bobby Watson, David “Fathead Newman, and Jove Lovano), was a member of Mingus Dynasty, and led his own trios and quartets for decades.

John Hicks is featured on “Morning Song” from a 1986 engagement at the Village Vanguard with tenor-saxophonist David Murray (the leader of the quartet), bassist Fred Hopkins and drummer Ed Blackwell.

-Scott Yanow


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