When jazz legend Dick Hyman and his wife Julia, an artist, moved to Venice, so did the epicenter of jazz.
“Within a few weeks, with the help of Arbors records and Rachel Domber, my music will be coming out on my own label, Eastlake Records, ‘The Piano Music of Dick Hyman,’ Played by Steve Harlos. He is recording some of it in my studio (in Venice) and some in his studio in North Denton. Texas.”
Hyman will be 94 on March 8 but sometime before that the recording should be out. This is the first recording of Hyman’s music not performed by Hyman.
“I am still not used to hearing someone else play my music but we are good friends and he does a good job.”
Last Wednesday, I listened to the music on that soon-to-be-released CD with the composer in his Venice studio. He listened intently, obviously making certain it was perfect. The first section especially offers strong reminders of the music of Scott Joplin.
Hyman is as much educator as composer and had spent his life in the study of jazz in all its variations, while also having been Arthur Godfrey’s orchestra conductor, composer and more for several Woody Allan films, a studio musician in the ’50s, composer for the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet Company and other dance companies. He has founded and/or directed several jazz festivals and was the first musician to have a hit record on the Moog synthesizer.
There’s more than enough to fill a book about all Hyman has done and contributed to the world of music in his lifetime and he is far from finished.
Hyman composes everyday and practices piano at least an hour everyday — more when preparing for a concert.
Harlos, the pianist on the new album is chair of keyboard studies and associate professor of collaborative piano in the music department at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.
As we listened to the music on that CD, Hyman was paying attention to each and every note lest he hear even one not played perfectly. In the end, he seemed satisfied with the performance of his longtime friend on what will be the first recording under Hyman’s new label, Eastlake Records. Arbor specializes in jazz and swing, Hyman recorded “Dick Hyman’s century of Jazz Piano,” a five-CD and 1-DVD album for Arbor in 2009. It remains a best-seller on the label.
Hyman was named a National Endowment of the Arts Fellow in 2017, another in a lengthy list of accolades. He is known worldwide as one of the all-time greatest jazz experts, composers and performers. He also was honored with a doctorate from Julliard in 2017, and now in his 90s, is still working in his studio daily, performing and more.
“I performed last Monday in Boca Grande with Ken Peplowski,” he said during my visit to his Venice studio in mid-January.
That performance was at the city’s community center with social distance seating and masks required. For the first of two performances, there was outside seating as well, he said.
Currently there are two grand pianos in the studio, the Steinway he has owned for years and the Yamaha that was delivered to the community center in Boca Grande the beginning of January for two concerts there the first week of the year with longtime friend, Ken Peplowski.
The two men, with singer Clairdee performed a concert at the Venice Performing Arts Center more than a year ago, before the pandemic sidelined most entertainers and their fans here and all over the world.
He said he worries about the younger musicians who are having their careers interrupted by the pandemic at a time when they are just beginning to get their breaks.
Hyman has recorded more than 100 albums, performed all over the world on the most important stages, won numerous awards and accolades. In Venice he is a good neighbor who made sure I got back to my car safely when I left his house as a light rain began to fall.
“It has all been interesting,” he said.