This is my first monthly blog for the 35mm site focusing on my favorite retro-sonic musical heroes. This month I am featuring a titan of the lounge/ jazz/soundtrack universe, Mr. Dick Hyman.
Dick Hyman is one of those musicians about whom you can say even though you may never have heard of him, you have most definitely “heard” his music sometime in your life. He has recorded about 100 albums under his own name, and appeared on over 1,000 others in his lifetime. He was born in 1927 and at 89 years of age is still with us today. Hyman has 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 the Jade Scorpion and Melinda and Melinda. If you like Woody Allen movies you have heard a lot of Dick Hyman Music.In 1987 he wrote the score for the Oscar winning film “Moonstruck”. For a more detailed list of his credits check out this link. Among musicians he has worked it is rumored that Mr. Hyman knows more songs than any other keyboard player ever!
Although he has a long career as a jazz pianist, here at Retro-Sonic land we are more interested in his work as an organist in the 1950’s and 60’s. Although the powerful sound of the Hammond B-3 organ was the preferred instrument of this time, Dick Hyman’s organ of choice was the Lowrey Theater Model (Garth Hudson of The Band is the only other famous keyboardist I know of who played Lowrey organs). This is the instrument used on his classic album, Dick Hyman- The Man From O.R.G.A.N. Recorded in 1965, at the height of the secret agent craze, this is my favorite Dick Hyman disc and, in my opinion, the best spy music album ever besides the actual James Bond soundtrack albums from the legendary John Barry.
The album opens with “The Liquidator” and although the movie of the same name did not make much of a splash, this version of the theme is swingin’ sixties party music at it’s best. I had never heard it until 35mm guitarist Fumi Sugawara found it on Youtube and we have been covering it at our shows ever since. In “The 3rd Man Theme & Danger Theme” Dick actually ingeniously layers two spy themes on top of each other. The guitarist Tony Mottola (who also worked in Frank Sinatra’s band ) is also on
this album and was the original writer of the “Danger” theme. Hyman takes advantage of some of the technological aspects unique to the Lowrey organs on the title track, the album’s only original tune. The Lowrey organs were the first keyboard instrument that could actually bend notes, controlled by a lever-like device on the side of the volume pedal.
Dick Hyman was always one to keep up with the times ,and in 1969 he released one of the first electronic pop albums featuring the Moog synthesizer, The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman, which would go on to be the biggest hit chart-wise of all the albums under his own name. A song called “The Minotaur” was a Billboard charting single. He followed this up with another Moog inspired album in that same year, The Age of Electronicus. Among the many tracks he recorded as a studio sideman my favorite is “Blame it on the Bossa Nova” by Edie Gorme`. His organ solo on this is masterful, as is his playing on the rest of album.
Musicians like Mr. Hyman, who stay active in the scene throughout many different eras and who can play such a wide variety of styles have always been a huge inspiration to me . Mr. Dick Hyman, myself and the members of 35mm salute you-long may you roll!