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John Hicks (1941-2006) was a musician's musician; a player who was held in high regard by his peers as a versatile performer who could elevate any ensemble. With Mind Wine: The Music of John Hicks, Hicks' wife, flautist Elise Wood-Hicks and pianist Larry Willis co-lead a group of the late pianist's long-time associates for a celebration of one of the most distinguished jazz personalities of the last forty years.
With the exception of Duke Ellington's "Single Petal of a Rose," the disc is comprised entirely of Hicks originals, emphasizing the pianist's penchant for strong, swinging melodies colored by lush, intricate harmonies. The hard-bop influenced title track, flowing waltz-tempo of "After the Morning," and no-nonsense bebop of "Blues in the Pocket" begin the session with well-developed themes and ample solo space for the entire ensemble. Two of the more thoughtfully arranged pieces are "Yemenja" and "Naima's Love Song," a pair of tunes named after Hicks' daughter.
The sextet's front-line pours heart and soul into each track. Wood-Hicks demonstrates a smooth flute tone and fluid solo ideas, trumpet legend Eddie Henderson lends his consistently lyrical perspective and saxophonist Craig Handy blows with fervor on tenor and soprano, confidently navigating through Hick's unpredictable chord structures.
Ably anchored by the veteran Willis, the extremely tight rhythm section is rounded out by bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Steve Williams. All three display dazzling technique and stamina on the up-tempo "Avotcja."
"Single Petal of a Rose," a duet for Willis and Wood-Hicks is a fitting close to the discthe tune was previously recorded by Hicks and his wife. The lush ballad is a poignant conclusion to a heartfelt tribute.
Track Listing: Mind Wine; After the Morning; Blues in the Pocket; Heart to Heart; Yemenja; Naima's Love Song; Avotcja; Single
Petal of a Rose.
Personnel: Elise Wood-Hicks: flute, alto flute; Craig Handy: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Eddie Henderson:
trumpet; Larry Willis: piano; Curtis Lundy: bass; Steve Williams: drums.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.