Dick Hyman plays the piano with an ease that many of us display while brushing our teeth — assuming routine dental care could inspire awe in an audience of 150 Colgate community members.
The jazz legend did just that on Saturday night, when he played the Katharine Elizabeth Gould Memorial Concert at the Palace Theater.
Hyman, a legend of the genre, started the evening’s journey on Tin Pan Alley with Fats Waller tunes like “Honeysuckle Rose.” He took a sharp turn onto Broadway with a few Cole Porter selections then stopped off in the nightclubs of 1950s Manhattan to pull pages from Bill Evans’ portfolio.
At the request of the concert’s sponsors, Harry Gould ’60 and Barbara Gould, Hyman also played four songs composed by the immortal Bix Beiderbecke.
But jazz is improvisation, and Hyman demonstrated his impromptu talent when he combined two waltzes — “A Waltz for Debbie” and “Lotus Blossom” — into a single composition.
“I figured out that they work together,” he said as a preface. “I just figured it out today, so I haven’t completely finished this arrangement.”
It was news to the audience, who could only clap their hands and shake their heads at the seamlessness of the work.
Hyman is the latest name on a growing list of world-class artists who have appeared for the Gould concert, which honors the memory of Harry and Barbara’s daughter Katharine.
As comfortable in the studio as he is on stage, Hyman has recorded more than 100 albums while working on more than a dozen film scores. He also served two decades as the artistic director of the Jazz in July series at New York’s 92nd Street Y.
In Colgate fashion, Hyman brought more than skill to the stage; he stepped up with a scholar’s knowledge of his material, and, in a commanding but relaxed voice, provided context for his program, though one can be forgiven for forgetting the nuances of Cole Porter’s chord progressions when listening to Hyman’s entrancing rendition of “Begin the Beguine.”
This isn’t the last dance for the Gould concert series. Once details have been confirmed, the Department of Music will announce the 2012 performance. Watch colgate.edu for details.