John Hicks’ father, a prominent Los Angeles Methodist minister who loved jazz, got him started on piano at an early age and often took him to Basie and Ellington concerts. Hearing Tatum at age 12 was an overwhelming experience. Soon thereafter, the family moved to St. Louis, where John started playing his first professional gigs while still in high school.

John first attended Lincoln University in Missouri as a government major, then switched to music and graduated from Berklee in 1962. Soon he was serving a blues apprenticeship with Little Milton and Albert King, then touring with jazz greats Al Grey, Pharaoh Sanders and Johnny Griffin. Fellow St. Louis natives Clark Terry, Miles Davis and Oliver Nelson convinced Hicks to move to New York in 1963, where he worked with Kenny Dorham, Lou Donaldson and Joe Henderson. In 1964, on Cedar Walton’s recommendation, John became pianist for the all-time great version of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, the one that included Lee Morgan and Curtis Fuller.

After two years with Blakey, Hicks became accompanist to Betty Carter (’66 to ’68 and ’75 to ’80). Other singers, including Anita O’Day, Carmen McRae and Jon Hendricks, soon sought John’s remarkable accompanying talents. Spending almost two years with the Woody Herman Band helped build his big band skills.

Playing and recording with Pharaoh Sanders and Sonny Rollins deepened his interest in the freer side of jazz. By the mid seventies, he was a favorite pianist of free jazz masters David Murray, Oliver Lake, Chico Freeman and Arthur Blythe — all saxophonists he continued to play and record with. At the same time, his standing as an icon of straight ahead jazz kept on growing through his work with giants like Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Stitt, Clark Terry, Frank Foster, James Moody, Ron Carter, and Roy Haynes.

As a leader, Hicks formed successful groups ranging from trios to sextets and big bands. In association with Elise Woods, he toured with a working duo, trio and quintet. He recorded prolifically for High Note, Theresa, Candid, DIW, Red Baron, Concord and RCA Novus.

John Hicks passed away on May 10, 2006.

For John's complete discography and additional info, please visit


Single Pedal Of A Rose (#02532) Trio Plus Strings (#05532) Just For You (#06232) Dance Of The Night Creatures (#06032) Passion Flower (#12832)


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