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"It was Clark Terry who got me into the mess I'm in today," quipped John Hicks, his sarcasm laced with huge appreciation. "Clark, along with (fellow St. Louis natives) Miles Davis and Oliver Nelson, encouraged me to come to New York."

And since relocating to New York City from St Louis more than 30 years ago, John Hicks is so firmly established among the most in-demand, prolific jazz pianists and composers on the recording and live appearance scenes, critics seem to have permanently affixed the adjective "ubiquitous" to his name. As a leader or first-call sideman, playing inside the chord changes or outside, presenting sparkling ballads or burning up the keyboard at torrid tempos, Hicks is as versatile as he is omnipresent.

John's varied influences include Fats Waller piano rolls, Methodist church music, George Gershwin and bebop, and among his musical mentors were such immortals as Lucky Thompson, Miles Davis and Clark Terry. Hicks played road gigs with blues legends Little Milton and Albert King, and jazz greats Al Grey, Johnny Griffin and Pharaoh Sanders before he arrived in New York in 1963. John then worked with, among numerous others, Kenny Dorham, Lou Donaldson and Joe Henderson before becoming a full-time member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. After two years with the seminal Messengers band, John joined the Betty Carter Trio, another important incubator for world-class beboppers. His productive stints with the vocalist Carter (1966-68) and (1975-80) and a 20-month residency with the Woody Herman Big Band helped to propel John's career as a recording artist into national notice.

The intervening years also saw Hicks appear live and on record with a galaxy of jazz giants that included Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Frank Foster, Roy Haynes, Sonny Stitt, Jon Hendricks and James Moody. He additionally recorded several albums for both the Theresa and Japanese DIW jazz labels and formed his own trio, sextet and big band. A favored sideman and recording associate with such cutting edge saxophone masters as David Murray, Ricky Ford, Arthur Blythe and Pharaoh Sanders, Hicks also has recorded a solo recital for Concord jazz and a live duet album on Candid with fellow pianist Kenny Barron.

In the present decade, Hicks has further expanded his visibility and acclaim. His recorded works have included reunion meetings with Betty Carter to a Solo at Maybeck Recital Hall in Berkeley, California to a variety of settings that have included: Joshua Redman, Al Grey, Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Grady Tate, Roy Hargrove, and Gary Bartz among others.

The past I2 years have seen an increasing focus on solo work, his own Big Band concerts, duets and trios. In all these realms, he has brought together outstanding musicians, all whom share with him excellence in the creation and delivery of the universal language. Among those with whom he works are: Ray Drummond, Peter Leitch, Elise Wood, Walter Booker, Idris Muhammad, Victor Lewis and Marvin "Smitty" Smith.

John's experience is not just tied to the performing stage. He shares his art through teaching engagements, and has done so for a number of years at schools and colleges throughout the country, including the jazz programs at New York University and the New School for Social Research. He tours regularly, both nationally and internationally, with ever increasing demand in both Asia and Europe.