Dick Hyman is mostly known as a jazz pianist. His command of the keyboard is utterly amazing. In addition to being one of the world's greatest jazz pianists, Hyman is also a composer, having written a series of jazz etudes and providing the scores to more than a dozen Woody Allen films.
Hyman was born in New York City in 1927 and, as of this writing, is 92 years old and still giving solo piano concerts. As a boy, he was given piano lessons from concert pianist Anton Rovinsky. Hyman said of Rovinsky, "He was my most important teacher. I learned touch from him and a certain amount of repertoire, especially Beethoven. On my own, I pursued Chopin. I loved his ability to take a melody and embellish it in different ways, which is exactly what we do in jazz. Chopin would have been a terrific jazz pianist! His waltzes are in my improvising to this day."
Hyman completed his Freshman year at Columbia College and then enlisted in the Navy as a radio technician in 1945. After serving his country, Hyman returned to Columbia where he won an on-air piano competition, earning him 12 free lessons with jazz artist Teddy Wilson.
Hyman has always been interested in ragtime and early jazz, and has extensively recorded the music of Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson, Zez Confrey, Eubie Blake and Fats Waller. In addition to his interest in early jazz, Hyman also focused on composers of The Great American Songbook and has produced recordings of the music of Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Duke Ellington.
In addition to his focus as a solo jazz pianist, Hyman served as composer/arranger/conductor/pianist for the Woody Allen films Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Broadway Danny Rose, Stardust Memories, Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, Bullets Over Broadway, Everyone Says I Love You, Sweet and Lowdown, The Curse of Jade Scorpion and Melinda and Melinda. His other film scores include Moonstruck, Scott Joplin, The Lemon Sisters and Alan and Naomi.
Hyman composed and performed the score for the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet Company's Piano Man, and Twyla Tharp's The Bum's Rush for the American Ballet Theatre. He was the pianist/conductor/arranger in Tharp's Eight Jelly Rolls, Baker's Dozen, and The Bix Pieces and similarly arranged and performed for Miles Davis: Porgy and Bess, a choreographed production of the Dance Theater of Dallas. In 2007, his Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which had been commissioned by the John G Shedd Institute for the Arts, and set by Toni Pimble of the Eugene Ballet, premiered in Eugene, Oregon.
In 1995, Hyman was inducted into both the Jazz Hall of Fame at Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies and the New Jersey Jazz Society Hall of Fame. He is truly an American treasure and a walking encyclopedia in the history of ragtime and jazz piano.
Hyman currently lives in Venice, Florida.
Carousel Memories (1985) - This lovely little waltz was composed by Hyman for the 1985 Woody Allen film "The Purple Rose of Cairo."
Blues for Jay McShann - I somehow came across a midi file of Dick Hyman playing this piece many years ago. I loved it so much, I transcribed it to sheet music so I could learn it. It's a wonderful example of the piano blues genre.
Variations on Shenandoah (1998) - This is a lovely set of piano variations around the American folk song Shenandoah. This piece also has a very nice cadenza that starts at 4:50.
Locating the Music
Dick Hyman's piano compositions may be purchased directly from him at http://www.dickhyman.com.
List of Piano Compositions
Five Propositions for Piano
- Little Girls at Play
- Little Boys at Play
- Isn't It Odd
- Marriage in Two Keys
Improvisations on Joplin
Thinking About Bix
Barrel of Keys
The Old Professor
Three Raps for Piano
Variations on Shenandoah
15 Etudes for Jazz Piano