Happy Birthday Dick Hyman

March 8, 1927

A tribute to the brilliant pianist

Pianist Richard “Dick” Hyman was born on March 8, 1927 in New York City.

Hyman was classically trained while also being introduced to jazz, working in dance bands while in high school.

After serving in the Navy, he attended Columbia University and won a radio piano competition which got him 12 free lessons with Teddy Wilson.

A virtuoso from an early age, Hyman developed the ability not only to play in virtually every jazz style but to closely emulate any pianist.

He recorded a wide variety of albums in the 1950s and ‘60s, everything from stereo demonstration records, honky tonk as “Knuckles O’Toole,” albums on which he was featured on the harpsichord, moog synthesizer, organ and other keyboards, and occasional jazz dates including with Sonny Stitt/Gene Ammons, Benny Goodman, Sonny Stitt, Roy Eldridge, Slim Gaillard, Peanuts Hucko, Mundell Lowe, Maxine Sullivan, Bobby Hackett, Ella Fitzgerald, Tal Farlow, Cozy Cole, Jonah Jones, and many others.

It was not until 1972 that Dick Hyman’s own solo career on records began to really reflect his brilliance, starting with a series of duets with cornetist Ruby Braff and continuing with one recorded gem after another, showing his love for James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, Scott Joplin, Zez Confrey, Jelly Roll Morton and many other early pianists.

In addition, Hyman has had a busy career as an arranger-composer for Woody Allen films and has performed in more modern styles too; he remained a brilliant pianist as he entered his nineties.

Here is Dick Hyman performing “Whispering” in 1992.

-Scott Yanow


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