Pianist John Hicks is one of those sidemen like bassist Ron Carter: They're on a lot of dates and when you see their names you can be pretty sure there's some good music on the disk. Hicks was really the highlight when I saw him dueting with Frank Morgan in LA this month, although Morgan was feeling a little under the weather that evening.
Like Carter, the pianist also leads fine sessions, notably a series examining music like that of, from, or associated with some of his progenitors, Erroll Garner, Mary Lou Williams and Sonny Clark among them. I like "Fatha's Day: An Earl Hines Songbook" from High Note.
This isn't Hicks mimicking the stride-rooted Hines but rather playing his own way, somewhere in the neighborhood of Bill Evans, Tommy Flannagan or Oscar Peterson (albeit less long winded). His approach is diverse. There's an elegant reading of "Almost April," he nods at stride on "Rhythm Run" and "Synopsis," and he gets boppy on "Twelve Bars for Linton." It all takes place in a trio setting, with Dwayne Dolphin on bass and Cecil Brooks III on drums, another sideman, and producer, whose presence almost always signals a keeper.