John Hicks

Music in the Key of Clark

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John Hicks' fourth CD in a series honoring pianists and composers who were from the greater Pittsburgh area salutes Sonny Clark, whose contributions have been somewhat overlooked since his premature death in 1963. Joined by bassist Dwayne Burno and drummer Cecil Brooks III, Hicks adds several originals -- which complement but don't attempt to mimic Clark's style -- in addition to his interpretations of Clark's compositions. He adds a lovely introductory original solo piano prelude to precede the easygoing waltz treatment of Clark's "My Conception," while his take of "Cable Car" gives it a Latin flavor. Hicks slows the tempo of Clark's "Minor Meeting" considerably and also winds the piece much tighter, giving it a much darker, bluesy sound than the composer's recordings for Time and Blue Note. Hicks' solo version of "Sonny's Mood" is lush and reflective, while the hard swinging "Sonny's Crib" reveals its roots in gospel music. Hicks, who hung out with Clark, dedicates "Angel With a Briefcase" to the late pianist because of his habit of always carrying one stuffed with manuscripts in progress; this warm solo portrait is followed by Hicks' whimsically titled "Clark Bar Blues," which hard bop fans will no doubt discover to be very tasty. Overall, the desired effect of such a brilliant release is to make one want to obtain earlier CDs by John Hicks and also to look for the original versions by Sonny Clark, if they aren't already in the listener's possession.

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