John Hicks Trio at Smoke

The John Hicks Trio appeared at Smoke one weekend during the month of July. John also appeared with the Jazzmobile at Grant's Tomb (along with David "Fathead" Newman on tenor sax and flute, Howard Johnson on baritone sax and trumpet, Peter Bernstein on guitar, John Menegon on bass, and Rudy Petsaur on drums) and at the Lenox Lounge. He will also be headlining at the Charlie Parker Festival in August with David "Fathead" Newman.

The Smoke trio consisted of John Hicks on piano, Curtis Lundy on bass, and Billy Drummond on drums. Paul Stache and Frank Christopher, the owners of Smoke, have done a great job continuing to bring in top-level Jazz musicians. Tommy (at the door) and the rest of the staff help to keep a relaxed atmosphere in the nightclub, and there is no cover charge during the week, only on weekends for the headliners.

The first tune they played, "Minor Collaboration" by Larry Willis, is a C-minor blues with a variation. Hicks played a syncopated left hand on piano, while his right hand flowed with strong ideas.  Drummond listened to every nuance, and Lundy was right in the pocket. The drum solo was thoughtful and adept.

The beautiful waltz "Emily" began with a fabulous piano introduction by John Hicks. Then Lundy entered with a bass-line figure that the two of them played together as an interlude each time the melody came around. One's attention got drawn to the bass, and naturally he was featured with a solo. Every note was played with deep, intense feeling. Hicks played a gorgeous legato on the out-head that led to a sweet sounding tag. Here, Lundy grabbed the bow and helped Hicks make a transition into the ending.

"The Plain and Simple Truth" by Oscar Pettiford is a blues, and it started out with a line in unison and octaves, played by piano and bass. Some really hip syncopation was used here, and before you knew it, the band was swinging. All eyes were on the group now, as each musician was comfortable in his own way. Drummond was using brushes, and when it came time for his solo, the room got very quiet, with just the bass drum punctuating his fabulous brush technique.

"Star-Crossed Lovers" is one of Billy Strayhorn's most beautiful ballads. Hicks approached in from a harmonic standpoint, and by the second or third chorus, one could decipher some superb descending chromatic chords.

The remainder of the set consisted of a smooth version of the standard, "Beautiful Friendship," and "Rhythm Changes" played at breakneck speed. The band easily kept up with Hicks' amazing solo; then Billy Drummond finally stretched out with his sticks on an extended drum solo.

by Lucy Galliher

Back to: Jazz Now Interactive August 2005 Vol. 15 No. 4 ¦ Table of Contents