Piano master Dick Hyman has appeared on Riverwalk Jazz broadcasts more often than any other guest in its 24-year history. Whenever Dick Hyman visits San Antonio, we never miss an opportunity to capture the informal, after-hours jam sessions that often spontaneously ignite when Dick and members of The Jim Cullum Jazz Band get together wherever we might be recording. This session was recorded on May 19, 1993 at The Landing on San Antonio’s Paseo del Rio.
The tune "I'm Sorry I Made You Cry" began life as a sentimental, turn-of-the-century parlor song, but the hot duo-piano version performed here by Dick Hyman and Cullum Band pianist John Sheridan was inspired by the kind of footloose, no-holds-barred pianistics Dick often enjoyed as a college student in the late 40s, spending time at Nick's in the Village, the famous jazz night spot on 7th Avenue. Later in the show, Hyman and Sheridan team up on a lush rendition of Fats Waller's romantic "My Fate is In Your Hands." Not to be missed is the Hyman/Sheridan comic duet on a medley of tunes including, “Flat Foot Floogie with the Floy Floy” and “Cement Mixer/Putty, Putty.”
Though his name is little-known these days, except among jazz aficionados, Joe Sullivan was one of the top jazz piano players of the 1920s and 30s. Sullivan was at the heart of the Chicago scene, and made recordings with Louis Armstrong and Eddie Condon. In New York he made a series of recordings for producer John Hammond including an outstanding jazz tune Sullivan wrote—"Little Rock Getaway." The tune is usually performed as a piano feature, and this is no exception—it’s another outstanding Hyman/Sheridan duet.
"I Double Dare You," sung here by Cullum band guitarist Howard Elkins, was composed by Terry Shand, the San Antonio composer who wrote the 1944 hit song "Dance with a Dolly with a Hole in Her Stocking." Shand was part of the early 1920s hot jazz scene in San Antonio, which included the young trombonist Jack Teagarden. Bandleader Jim Cullum and his clarinetist father knew Terry Shand personally.
On his solo version of "Try a Little Tenderness," Dick Hyman shows us why he is so widely regarded as a jazz master of the piano. It’s a swinging, highly inventive and original interpretation, harmonically sophisticated, and like most great jazz, firmly rooted in the blues. Hyman’s total command of vast virtuosic resources is reminiscent of Art Tatum.
Bessie Smith's record company gave her the title "Empress of the Blues" as a stunt to promote record sales, but it turns out they really got it right. The world was never the same after Bessie recorded "Beale Street Blues," "Yellow Dog Blues" and "Saint Louis Blues." On this broadcast, the Band plays one of her tunes, "Oh Daddy, Blues I Got the Meanest Kind," to which Dick Hyman contributes a piano solo chorus very much in the style of Earl "Fatha" Hines.
One of the pioneers to come out of the Kansas City jazz scene was a piano player named Mary Lou Williams. Jim Cullum says, "In the thirties, Kansas City was one hot place for jazz." On our show, Jim tells the story of the epic battle between saxophone giants Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young at a KC club, the Cherry Blossom. All the saxophone players in town showed up, and a jam session went on until the wee small hours. Mary Lou Williams was at home fast asleep, but at 1 AM she heard a tapping at her window. It was tenor player Ben Webster imploring her to come down to the club to relieve the other piano players, who by this time were all worn out. The story goes that Hawkins and Young battled it out until the next day at noon. "Roll 'Em" is a boogie-woogie piano blues Mary Lou Williams composed recalling those wild days in Kansas City. The tune became a smash hit for the Benny Goodman Orchestra and helped launch the pop music boogie-woogie craze of the 1940s.
As a bonus, our show includes a performance by Dick Hyman of a song he wrote for the 1983 Woody Allen film Zelig. "Doin' the Chameleon" is about a character who, as Dick says, "was a chameleonic kind of fellow."
Dick sings the lyrics:
There's a brand new dance
come up the river
Just chirp your head and shake your liver
You're Doin' The Chameleon.
Make a face that's like a
Feel that the beat down in your gizzard
You're Doin' The Chameleon
Stick out your tongue the way
the reptiles do
Trying to catch a fly
Inflate your lung like big crocodiles do
Hey, hey, my oh my!
Photo credit for Home Page image: Dick Hyman. Photo courtesy of the artist
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick © 1993