An Evening at the Cookery

COMPOSERS: Dick Hyman
LABELS: JRB Records
PERFORMER: Dick Hyman
CATALOGUE NO: CD-3007

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Mosaic Records was launched in 1983 as the first company devoted exclusively to reissuing jazz recordings in limited-edition boxed sets. Each usually encompassed a specific body of work, such as Thelonious Monk’s complete Blue Note output, Duke Ellingtonrecordings for Capitol, Dean Benedetti’s private Charlie Parker stash and so forth.

The firm celebrates its 20th anniversary by inaugurating Mosaic Select, a series of two- and three-disc collections that focus on significant yet relatively neglected work by a broad range of jazz luminaries.

Dick Hyman is another musician’s musician, a multi-faceted virtuoso whose eclectic experiences as a studio player and arranger only enhance the creativity and range he brings to solo jazz piano. He was a family friend who allowed me to observe his recording sessions as a child, taught me how to practise and remains a cherished colleague and collaborator.

As a college student I’d often catch his Sunday night gigs at the Cookery in Greenwich Village, and marvelled at his peerless stride piano technique, his unique way of sustaining bass lines with the middle pedal, his ability to play effortlessly in any key and his breathtaking Art Tatum-inspired runs.

Hyman recorded himself one night at the club in June 1973, on a little portable cassette deck. The sound’s not great on An Evening at the Cookery, but your ears quickly adjust and the music-making is masterly. ran blake’s virtuosity is not about finger facility.

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It’s about multiple degrees of touch, dynamic microshadings, a subtle yet wide palette of articulations, clotted chords, dripping lines, a phenomenal sense of timing and a determination to deconstruct every standard tune to suit his inner muse. He knows what he’s doing every second.