Joan Hickey

Soulmates

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AllMusic Review by

Chicago has many fine jazz pianists it can boast about. One who has been on the scene for nearly 20 years is distinctive stylist Joan Hickey. Working in both trio and quartet settings, she goes about her business with a song list of originals, including two by Hickey and some standards. Joining her on five cuts is NYC bass icon Buster Williams, who also contributed "Dual Force," which has been recorded by both Cindy Blackman and Freddie Hubbard. The quartet is formed by adding the trumpet of Jeff Helgesen, whose vigorous playing adds oomph to two tracks, especially "Dr. Sid." This track also features a lengthy ferocious drum break by George Fludas. Hickey's pianism is not at all flashy or hectic, but seems to flow from one song to another with ease, elegance, and dignity. However, on those cuts where Williams appears, the arrangements have a more modern focus than when Dennis Carroll is on bass. Because she avoids heavy chordal and harmonic expressions, you can hear the results of each stroke upon the keyboards. Her interpretation of "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)" is simply remarkable, with an extensive improvisational exploration of Duke Ellington's masterpiece. The understated insertions along the way by both Fludas and bassist Carroll add a gentle emphasis to the musical points being made by Hickey. An excellent six minutes of music. Similarly, Helgesen is given all the leeway he wants as he fashions a lengthy trip above the melody line on "Old Devil Moon." The interchange between his horn and Hickey's piano recalls the exchange of ideas between Miles Davis and Bill Evans on their recorded outings. This captivating album is cerebral small-group jazz at its finest. Recommended.

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