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Dick Hyman: Dick Hyman in Recital

A memorable CD-stunning virtuosity and audio fidelity that sets an unprecedented standard for recording that most recalcitrant of instruments, the grand piano. Chops hardly surpassing: over the past 50 years, Hyman has done everything one can do with keyboards. He has recorded with almost every jazz and pop star and composed film scores and concert pieces. He has been a television conductor, arranger for Broadway musicals and a galaxy of singers and ensembles, studio free-lancer of award-winning distinction, director of jazz concerts at New York’s 92nd Street Y since 1983, and a music magazine columnist, and a performer at clubs and festivals worldwide. His role as Woody Allen’s music man is well-known, and an earlier generation remembers his work with Arthur Godfrey….and Charlie Parker and Goodman.

The “recital” took place at the home of Leah and Aaron Mendelsohn in Santa Monica which since 1990 has been the site of Maestro Foundation performances. Concerts are presented in an acoustically perfect 2,000-square-foot living room/concert hall (25-foot ceiling, spotlit stage, soundproofed walls) before up to 100 devotees. The instrument is a nine-foot Boesendorfer concert grand, one of only 33 with an ultra-sensitive recording-playback mechanism developed by Wayne Stahnke. Every nuance including pedaling is recorded-no microphones, no balancing, no sound checks, no worries about extraneous noise. It frees the pianist: Hymn says it is one of the most sympathetic instruments he has ever come across, and his playing is singularly loose and inventive. The sound has to be heard to be believed.

Hyman’s program includes standards from the ’20s and ’30s, plus “Odeon,” a piece from 1905 by Ernesto Nazareth which he describes as “Brazilian ragtime.” He gets into a playful Garnerish mood on Kern’s “The Song Is You” and he uses the Boesendorfer’s additional bass notes. “Lover” is handled as a rollicking Chopin-style waltz. “Thinking About Bix” is an original which captures the flavor of those Bill Rank wedding-cake arrangements for Whiteman. The closer is James P. Johnson’s finger-buster, “Carolina Shout.” An extraordinary pianist with great taste, in total command of a magnificent instrument. Recorded with awesome presence and fidelity!

Originally Published