When Dick Hindman was eleven years old, he heard his father play Tchaikovsky’s “None but the Lonely Heart” haltingly on a spinet piano. He asked his dad to show him how to read the notes and a few days later he was playing the piece for himself. That first piano lesson ignited his lifelong passion for music.
His father was a career military officer, so Dick grew up in many places and environments. He studied only classical music for the first several years, spending three years in the Washington, D.C. studio of concert pianist Harry McClure, while also studying musical composition with noted neoclassical composer and scholar Robert Evett. Later his family moved to Heidelberg, Germany, where he learned to speak German and studied briefly with the Director of the Conservatory of Music at the University of Heidelberg.
As a teenager, Dick naturally became interested in the popular music of his age group. He started playing rock ‘n roll in Heidelberg with a band that performed in the local American Teen Club. “We concentrated a lot on Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Little Richard, and the like. I still like that music a lot,” he says of those years. “That’s where I learned to use my ears and to keep the form when playing with other musicians.” Then, in 1961, someone changed his life by loaning him an Oscar Peterson record. He was thrilled by the combination of the Oscar’s dynamic rhythms, blues foundations and the sophisticated harmonies of classical music. Eagerly he began listening to Eroll Garner, Art Tatum, George Shearing, Ahmad Jamal, the Miles Davis Quintet with Wynton Kelly, and Bill Evans.
Eventually the family returned to the US, moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Dick started playing in night clubs. In 1968, he approached the great teacher and conductor Antonia Brico*, founder of the Brico Symphony Orchestra in Denver, and asked her to help him further develop his classical playing. The resulting three year relationship culminated with Dick’s appearance as soloist with the Brico Symphony, performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 to a capacity crowd of over two thousand people. The concert was a great success.
Dr. Brico encouraged Dick to develop a career as a concert pianist, but his mind was already moving more towards the realm of composition and improvisation. It was during this same period that Dick appeared on his first recording, entitled JAZZ CITY, produced by and starring Los Angeles saxophonist Pete Christlieb.
In 1973 Dick moved to the San Francisco Bay area, becoming involved in the Bay Area night club, jazz and recording scene. Then in 1978, he went to Denver for nine months to head up his own house trio at a jazz spot called Clyde’s Pub, where he worked with such artists as Sonny Stitt, Lou Donaldson, Dakota Staton, Harold Land, Blue Mitchell, Leon Thomas, Eddie Jefferson and Richie Cole. Returning to San Francisco in the late eighties, he was invited to become the musical director of the world-renowned American Conservatory Theater, a position he held for six years. During this period he played with many well-known musicians, including The Manhattan Transfer, Clark Terry, Shelley Manne, Jon Faddis, Curtis Fuller, Buster Williams, to name a few. At the same time, Dick was extending his awareness of the classical piano repertoire with the great teacher Karl Ulrich Schnabel, who offered master classes in the Bay Area several times a year.
Dick began working frequently with alto saxophonist Richie Cole, touring with him in Japan, Europe, the United States and Canada. He appeared on many Richie Cole albums, including HOLLYWOOD MADNESS (Muse Records), ALTO ANNIE’S THEME (Palo Alto Records), STEAM (Palo Alto Records), POP BOP (Fantasy Records) and PROFILE (Heads Up Records). Dick says, “I got to participate in a lot of good recording projects with Richie. Most of them came out extremely well, but I think that my personal favorites are still the first one I did with him, entitled HOLLYWOOD MADNESS and the last one we did together, called PROFILE.” He also performed with Richie on Manhattan Transfer’s Grammy Award-winning album, VOCALESE.
In 1984, the first record featuring the Dick Hindman Trio appeared, entitled SECRET GARDEN. On it were Colin Bailey (known, among other things, for his work with the Vince Guaraldi Trio) on drums and Denver bassist Paul Warburton, whom Dick had originally met in the seventies. That recording, which was out of print for several years, is now available as a two-disc set from Secret Garden Records.
Several years later, ONCE I LOVED: THE RICHARD HINDMAN TRIO appeared on the Lake Street Records label. (This recording, which has been out of print for several years, is scheduled to be reissued as ONCE I LOVED by Secret Garden Records in early 2007.) That same year, Dick recorded fifteen of his own compositions on solo piano, entitled THE LIGHT-HEARTED GOURMET, for the Menus & Music Company.
Meanwhile, he continued playing and performing with such artists as Stan Getz, Ernie Watts, Bud Shank and Shorty Rogers, James Moody, Jon Faddis, and others. “Working with Stan Getz was especially enjoyable,” says Dick, “because I got to play some of my tunes with him. I thought he played them as if they had been written for him.” More recently, Dick has also performed with jazz harmonica player and guitarist Toots Thielemans, and gotten to know Brazilian singer and songwriter Ivan Lins, who has deeply influenced Dick’s own compositions.
Dick now records for Secret Garden Records. More trio and solo piano recordings are planned.
* For more information about Antonia Brico, see Judy Collins’s Academy Award nominated film “Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman“