Jazz and classical music enthusiasts have more in common than they think. A riveting conversation between Dick Hyman and moderator, Dave Frank brought that home loud and clear. On You Tube, no less!
Frank’s bistro, located at Klavierhaus in New York City, drew an intimate audience of faithful followers to watch headliner, Hyman share the intricacies of his creative process. Could he put words to it? In the big leagues with Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson, et al, he admitted to the challenge of dissecting what was basically nonverbal.
But when prodded by Frank in his “Masterclass” format, the jazz legend emphasized the importance of scales, counter-melody, counterpoint, tone, touch, temperament, and projection as if he shared a tight bond with classically-trained pianists. (Hyman’s uncle, a piano recitalist in the 20′s and 30s, exposed nephew, Dick, to a good dose of tradition-bound repertoire)
Another case in point: Hyman, who’s celebrated on LP, CD, and through his association with Woody Allen in movie productions, paid tribute to the late pianist, Ruth Laredo, with whom he formed the chamber group, “Keyboard Crossover.” The ensemble, originally based in Florida, included jazz icon, Marian McPartland.
Hyman fleshed out Laredo’s amazingly resonant singing tone against a silky, subdued bass. He watched and listened carefully, taking as his own what suited his style and grew his artistry. (It was a cross-fertilization of genres that served both musicians)
(Here’s Ruth Laredo, in top form, playing a Rachmaninoff Prelude during a Celebration of Steinway’s and Son’s 100th Anniversary!)
Hyman’s impressions of his art poured forth in an hour long videotaped exchange with Frank that was interspersed by jazz solos and duos. He opened with Cole Porter’s “It Was Just One of Those Things,” and joined Dave in more than one extemporaneous collaboration. “Pennies from Heaven” was a featured selection, and it sizzled with contrapuntal interplay!
Dick shared how jazz musicians used to be trained—by ear, imitation, listening to fine recordings and improvising. He added that his own “relative pitch” sense fell short of absolute–though not a liability.
He declared Teddy Wilson as his personal idol– the man who gave him 12 free lessons after a contest win!
What a twist of fate!
Finally, Hyman capped the afternoon, with a demo of his “A Century of Jazz Music” package. (5 Cds and a DVD). In a video sample originally produced in Florida, replayed on a small screen, Dick showcased Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s “Pasquinade,” an antecedent of “cakewalks” and Scott Joplin’s Ragtime double syncopations.
Besides serving up an afternoon of inspired music, Hyman parceled out inner voices in Chopin’s Waltz in C# minor as a demonstrative reply to an audience member needing advice about finding and practicing counter-melodies? (A Romantic era musical tie-in)
When all was said and done, classical and jazz mavens fit snugly under an all-embracing umbrella–along with a community of Dick Hyman lovers who wanted to be a party to his history-making appearance.
And a party it was, as Dick received a surprise birthday cake for his 84th!