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John Hicks: Music In the Key of Clark

This album’s subtitle is Remembering Sonny Clark. Hicks honors his fellow pianist with performances of eight of Clark’s compositions and five of his own dedicated to Clark, who died at 31 in 1963. Ten years younger, Hicks knew him toward the close of the older man’s life, whose sad end Bill Evans memorialized in a piece he titled with an anagram of Clark’s name, “NYC’s No Lark.”

In truth, the city was no more unkind to Clark than he was to himself, but the heroin addiction that killed him did not keep him from developing a style of soloing and accompanying that made him a favorite of musicians in a range that encompassed Buddy DeFranco, Dexter Gordon, Lee Morgan, Cal Tjader, Jackie McLean, Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins. Hicks captures the spirit and harmonic underpinnings of Clark’s playing, if not quite the tension that Clark achieved in the contrast between relaxation and rhythmic snap in his attack.

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