He was one of the Mr. Pianos of the jazz world. His piano world was as varied as the spectrum of traditional jazz, to music of the world of pop, and then into the avant-garde. Like the name of the Benny Golson album New York Scene, Hicks was very much of that very scene — a true fixture in that city’s jazz-scape. His style, stemming from a rich background in music of the church and blues, has been described as having a density and an almost muscled touch with boundless energy, an influence, no doubt, from the greatness of McCoy Tyner.
Music was very much a family thing, his first lessons on the piano were from his mother. He attended Berklee and Juilliard, and then the school of hard knocks on the stage with the full-on, real-world experience of the Jazz Messengers and that group’s roster of giants. Included in the experience chapters were Betty Carter, Woody Herman and Della Reese, among many others. He paid homage to many of those who were signature artists of the music with recordings saluting their artistry, including Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, and Billy Strayhorn.
He sounded like demands met on possibly the world’s most demanding stage, New York City. And like the title of Benny Golson’s album, Hicks more than made it in that scene; he made the grade, and was part of its rich and treasured tone.