At 85, jazz mainstay Dick Hyman, at once an enfante terrible and traditionalist, not to mention being a smooth jazz cat long before the wave hit, is a guy not all that easy to pin down. Though he's rightly lauded for many takes on the early jazz catalogues of Jellyroll Martin, Fats Waller, Eubie Blake, and others, not to mention film scoring, orchestral compositions, mucho session work, and issuing 100 LPs under his own name—geez, is there anything the guy doesn't do??—I'd like to point out a little-known fact: he's also the creator of one of the 20th century's landmark works, the singular Minotaur song off the equally unique Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman LP.
The claim goes that he was the first to ever record on a Moog synthesizer in 1969, but that's not quite true: Wendy Carlos beat him to the punch, issuing the stellar Switched-On Bach in '68, still the best-selling classical music LP of all time. Nonetheless, Eclectic Electrics was a fetchingly odd and compelling blend of pop, jazz, classicalism, and fusion matched only by cats like Jean-Jacques Perry, Perry Kingsley, their Perry-Kingsley duet (which released moog, tape, and synth musics in '66 and '67), the Barrons, and others. Minotaur was so stunning that Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) picked up on it, incorporating the track prominently with his takes on Ginastera and other hoary estimables, though, uh, he never credited Dick properly ('n wot's up wid dat, eh Keef?). You can hear one of Emerson's revved-up re-do's during a jam improv on the live Welcome Back, My Friends, to the Show that Never Ends.
Sorry, had to get that off my chest. Fellow crits thoroughly ignore the cut and LP, and it's a cryin' shame. My copy of the slab resides in a place of honor, and I'm damned if I've ever lent it out. I'm not risking losing it, and it's been played often over the decades.
Lock my Heart, however, is galaxies away from that futuristic vinyl, residing instead in the milieu of the Great American Songbook and smoky nightclub jazz. Heather Masse, the real star this time out, possesses a languid, sex kitteny, eventide whispery voice that seduces in much the fashion I'm guessing the mythological sirens employed to lure pining sailors, appealing to emotions and psychologies running strongly below the realm of the everyday. Heart isn't a CD for kicking your heels up to, instead a somber but enticing exercise in, well, the more adult scenarios than otherwise and artistically very compelling. Especially the intro to her own If I Called You, for instance, hasn't seen such a mode of recitation since Joni Mitchell's Blue period—the remainder of the song ditto, but that intro's unique.
I said "somber" but that's not entirely so. Masse's Billie Holiday take on I'm Gonna Lock my Heart (and Throw Away the Key), from which the CD's title is taken, is a wonder, a complete turnabout in vocal personality, and will tickle your funny bone too…especially when you refectively realize that Betty Boop's voice was not only a reflection of flapper era strains but also Lady Day. I hadn't quite caught that until I heard this cut. The operant word for the disc other than that, however, is moody, musky, and mature. Hyman fills the backgrounds nicely—I've always claimed instrument/duet albums are the most difficult in music—waxing adventurous more than once, though the staid beauty of his choices in tracks like Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered are impeccable, so much so that Paul Williams will be drooling when he hears this version.
And to wrap up on my introductory paragraph: if, like me, you love The Minotaur, you need to know of a hidden gem. Hyman rendered a version of it on an unknown CD titled Jazz Sonatas: Brubeck, Hanna, Hyman (1994, Angel Records, CD 7243-5-55061-2-2) in a 7:38 duet with violinist Yuval Waldman that'll have you grinning like the cat that got the cream. Worth searching out.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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