John Hicks: Passion Flower (1992/1997) 2009

subtitled: Solos, Trios, and Septets

Passion Flower

Track list:

Disc 1: Single Petal of a Rose:

01. Sometime Ago
02. Infant Eyes
03. Yes Or No
04. Ballad Of A Black Man
05. Ghosts Of Yesterday
06. Portraits
07. Topaz
08. A Child Is Born
09. Single Petal Of A Rose
10. Embraceable You
11. Virgo

Disc 2: Trio + Strings:

01. Heart To Heart
02. Minor Collaboration
03. Peace For E.H.
04. Two Heart Beats
05. The Wandering Soul
06. Naima’s Love Song
07. Passion Flower
08. After The Dawn
09. West Side Winds
10. No More Regrets


Single Petal of a Rose:
John Hicks – piano;
Elise Wood – flute;
Walter Booker – bass;
Jack Walrath – trumpet

Trio + Strings:
John Hicks – piano
Elise Wood – alto flute
Steve Novosel – bass
Ronnie Burrage – drums
Steve Williams – drums
with Rick Schmidt String Quartet:
Rick Schmidt – cello
Debbie Baker – viola
Charles Olive – violin
Tom Ginsberg – violin
Larry Willis – string arrangements (#1,3,6)

This compilation:
Released: September 8, 2009
Label: Mapleshade 12832

Production Notes:

Disc One: Single Petal of a Rose [Mapleshade 02532]
Produced by John Hicks, Elise Wood and Pierre Sprey
Engineered by Pierre Sprey
Recorded at Mapleshade Studio, June 1992
Mastered by Bob Katz, Digital Domain (NYC)

Single Petal of a Rose

Disc Two: Trio + Strings [Mapleshade 05532]
Produced by Larry Willis
Engineered by Pierre Sprey
Recorded at Mapleshade Studio, Sept. 23-24 and 27, 1997
Mastered by Paul Story, Solo Studio (Fairfax,VA)

Trio + Strings



John Hicks recorded two fine CDs for the Mapleshade label in a variety of formats, and three years past his death at an age far too young, the label has seen fit to combine them on a double-CD set.

In tandem with his wife/flutist Elise Wood, Hicks continually proves why he was one of the most inventive, talented, and outstanding modern jazz pianists of his, or any generation.

Subtitled on the front cover, it reveals this issue contains solo, trio, and septet recordings, but a few duets are also included, as are many standards and originals, all material that sets him apart as a unique, completely individualistic performer.

The album Single Petal of a Rose from 1992 has no Hicks originals, but instead standards and three Wayne Shorter compositions all in different formats.

“Infant Eyes” is stretched to exotic proportion in a drummerless trio with Hicks, Wood’s vibrato flute, and bassist Walter Booker, “Yes or No” jumps out in a hopped-up version with piano and flute only, while “Virgo,” in a quartet with muted trumpeter Jack Walrath added on, features Wood in extended, enigmatic remarks.

Hicks covers David Murray’s poetic, pretty “Ballad of a Black Man” with Walrath and Wood in underlying fashion, while Wood’s composition “Topaz” has a lighthearted, fun-loving tone as exuded between the flute and piano duet.

An elegiac solo piano version of the Charles Mingus piece “Portraits,” and Booker’s drawn-out bowed bass setting up “A Child Is Born” are the most evocative moments of the session.

A second effort, Trio & Strings, from 1997, has a near entire program written by Hicks, but just a handful of tracks accompanied by the Rick Schmidt String Quartet.

With arrangements by Larry Willis, the strings work effectively on the lush ballad “Peace for E.H.,” and are even more integrated during the wondrous bossa “Naima’s Love Song.”

The cascading solo piano of Hicks is heard most beautifully during “The Wandering Soul,” his immortal version of Billy Strayhorn’s “Passion Flower,” and the coda “No More Regrets.”

But Hicks is at his finest in the piano-bass-drums format, ripping up “Minor Collaboration,” going easy during “Two Heart Beats,” or flying on his famous bop waltz, the inventive “After the Dawn.”

Perhaps the best single track with Wood is “West Side Winds,” a churning, neo-bop piece that transcends all the others for its innate energy.

It’s a good thing to have this recording out in the marketplace, considering John Hicks recorded more extensively for other record labels.

His undeniable musicality shines brightly on this document that comes with a high recommendation, very close to his best, and certainly his most diverse work.
~Michael G. Nastos[]