The Jazzcat

Great Pianist John Hicks has Passed

by on May.12, 2006, under News

Thursday, May 11, 2006 9:29 AM CDT

December 21, 1942 – May 10, 2006

Funeral Arrangements

Viewing will be held Thursday, May 18, 2006 from 2-9pm at Saint Mark's

United Methodist Church located at 55 Edgecombe Avenue, New York City.

Homegoing service for Mr. Hicks will be held on Friday May 19, 2006 at 2:00 p.m. at Saint Mark's United Methodist Church.


Funeral arrangements are being handled by John H. Joyce Funeral

Directors located at 2332 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd. New York, new

York 10030 

Phone number is 212-690-3500. 


Following the funeral services for Mr. Hicks, the family will have his

body shipped to Atlanta, Georgia to be buried at South View Cemetery in


family plot along with his parents, grandparents, and brother, Eldon.


Flowers can be sent to the funeral home.

Thank you


By Chris King

Of the St. Louis American


Henderson, president of the local musical heritage organization

Crusaders for Jazz, had something in common with much of the jazz world


He had a difficult time speaking, even thinking.



Wednesday morning, May 10, 2006, the great jazz pianist John Hicks, who

spent his formative years in St. Louis, passed away in New York City.

He was 64.





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At press time, the cause of death was unknown.


had received a call Tuesday night from Hicks’ daughter, Naima (who was

named for a John Coltrane composition), informing him that they were

rushing her father to St. Vincent’s Hospital. He was suffering from

internal bleeding.

“He was so thoughtful, such a beautiful

person,” Henderson said of Hicks, whom he first met at a long-forgotten

North Side lounge, El Patio, in the late ‘50s.

Henderson was struggling to speak.

“It just got to me.”

As Henderson remembered

his departed friend, who played St. Louis many times under the auspices

of Henderson’s organization, Hicks’ music was playing on WSIE. Ross

Gentile, who had received the sad news from Henderson that morning, was

dedicating his afternoon “Standards in Jazz” show to the legend we have


“I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with John and his lovely wife, Elise,” Gentile said.


had such a passion for music. He was one of the most inspirational

pianists I have ever seen, and he had such a lovely personality. God,

he’s going to be missed.”

James Carter, a young saxophonist from

Detroit, had the privilege of touring with Hicks, both as a sideman and

leader, and Hicks played on Carter’s most recent studio effort,

Gardenias for Lady Day.

“He was a real cool cat, cracking jokes,

enjoying the ability to get with some musical comrades, confab and

jam,” Carter said, of touring with H

icks in Japan and on the West Coast.

“But when it came time to

hit, he had his professionalism. He was somebody you could definitely

get your groove with, on and offstage.”

Of Hicks’ playing,

Carter said, “There were certain nuances he could give you, very

soulful and economic – at times. When he got a good vibe going, his

fingers went a-flying and it would happen, a yippety yap!”


Josephus Hicks Jr. was born in Atlanta on December 21, 1941. He spent

his early childhood in Los Angeles. He began piano lessons with his

mother at age 6, and by the time his family moved to St. Louis when

John was 13, he was already playing for the choir and for Sunday School

at the church where his father was minister.

Visitors to the

senior Hicks’ church in St. Louis included Erroll Garner, Count Basie

and Duke Ellington. Hicks Sr. wrote a column for the St. Louis Argus.


Sumner High School, he became active in the band and choir, with

impressively musical scho

olmates including Phillip Wilson and Lester Bowie. He also woodshedded

locally with John Chapman, Sonny Hamp, Willie Akins and Johnny Mixon,

who he counted among his lifelong idols even though he came to perform

with luminaries.


attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City and Berklee College of

Music in Boston before moving to New York in the early 1960's.


New York, John sat with all the old masters,” Henderson said. “He went

to Bradley’s, where all the great players gathered, guys like Tommy

Flanagan, Hank Jones.”

Hicks launched into a career that would

see him take the piano with an astonishing range of leaders, from

bluesmen Little Milton and Albert King, to a jazz who’s who of our

time: Art Blakey, Betty Carter, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Woody Herman,

Pharaoh Sanders, Ron Carter, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Freddie

Hubbard, Oliver Nelson, David Murray, Jay McShann, Oliver Lake, Lester

Bowie, Grant Green – the list could be extended.

His di

scography, as a leader and sideman, recording for Strata East, Theresa,

Limetree, DIW, Timeless, Red Baron, Concord, Evidence, Novus,

Reservoir, Mapleshade, Landmark and other labels, is equally vast and


“He was always nurturing, always looking ahead,” Carter said of Hicks’ playing.


he was still a Rock of Gibraltar in terms of fundamentals, basics,

keeping the vibe, the musical conversation going, with the intent of

imparting musical knowledge. And, at the same time, not showboating.”


said, “He paid tribute to everybody – Earl Garner, Billy Strayhorn,

Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines. He was always keeping alive a legacy.”

“He was so gracious in his lifetime, doing tribute to Sonny Clark, Mary Lou Williams, Art Blakey,” Gentile said.

“I hope musicians coming up take time do what he did and pay tribute to him.”

Henderson said Hicks is survived by his daughter, Naima Hicks of Atlanta; his wife, Elise Woods of New York; a son, Jamil Hic

ks; his ex-wife, Olympia George of Atlanta; and jazz musicians and listeners everywhere.


said as recently as Sunday Hicks had performed at his father’s former

church, St. Mark’s in Harlem, a likely site for his final services.


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