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Dick Hyman: Thinking About Bix (Piano Solo) (2009)

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Dick Hyman: Thinking About Bix (Piano Solo) How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

A piano is not a cornet. That should be obvious, yet both the name of the label, Reference Recordings and statements like this one by pianist Dick Hyman in the notes—"As with all of these replicas, I've tried to reproduce Bix' solo exactly."—belie that obvious fact. Hyman's reproductions of cornet solos by Bix Beiderbecke lack not only the sounds characteristic of brass wind instruments, but the context of those solos. This is an unaccompanied piano recording; Bix recorded the solos rendered here with mostly small bands playing the New Orleans/Chicago style now termed trad jazz.

Thinking About Bix (Piano Solo) is not a reproduction but a refraction through the prism of Hyman's piano and imagination, providing a fresh setting for music originally performed—or in the case of the Bix piano pieces—composed by Bix Beiderbecke. Like similar ventures that take transcribed solos from recordings and orchestrate them (the groups Pres and Bird Feathers, many tribute big band projects), Hyman's renditions here illuminate aspects of both Bix and the bands he worked with that are revelatory, clarifying harmonies and casting melody in a luminous spotlight. But Hyman's most impressive achievement is finding pianistic equivalents for band arrangements that reflect the suave sophistication of Paul Whiteman ("'Tain't So, Honey, 'Tain't So") or peppy, jazz age rhythmic spirit of Bix & His Gang ("Since My Best Gal Turned Me Down").

Only a jazz pianist as completely schooled in both piano technique and jazz piano history could pull off a project like this with the felicity and élan of Hyman. From the wonderful Bix and band interpretations and the four impressionistic piano compositions that make up Bix' "Modern Suite" to the final, rollicking four-hand duet with fellow pianist Mike Lipskin on "You Took Advantage of Me," Hyman imaginatively revives that old slogan: "Bix Lives!."


Track Listing: Thinking About Bix; Singin

Personnel: Dick Hyman, Mike Lipskin: piano.

Record Label: Reference Recordings

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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