Cadence Magazine February, 1993 By Jerome Wilson NEW STANDARDS Robert Hicks is another Californian who works an older vein of jazz singing and comes with a heavy recommendation. His liner notes were written by Pete Rugolo, the legendary Stan Kenton arranger. You quickly hear why Rugolo likes him so much. Hicks sings in a high, driving tenor voice reminiscent of Kenton's Four Freshmen vocal group. He's obviously hip to the resemblance himself because through overdubs he becomes a seven-man vocal group on the Dizzy Gillespie-Chico O'Farrell Afro-Cuban piece, 'Carambola'. Other than that it's mostly straight-ahead vocalizing in a voice that's a cross between Johnny Ray, Chet Baker and the young Mel Torme. Hicks has a buttery sound and enough rhythmic invention to breathe new life into a lot of old songs that had been worked to death by the campy flailings of cabaret singers. He consistently underplays in his vocals, either playing the sweet-singing romantic or scatting wildly with fine instrumental support including his own competent piano and vibes. There are also some surprises like the aforementioned 'Carambola' where Hicks impersonates an entire trumpet section, the old Hollywood cowboy song, 'Along The Navajo Trail', done prettily with a simple guitar and harmonica accompaniment and a ravishingly beautiful 'Early Autumn' sung with such feeling and precision Stan Getz himself might have appreciated it. Hicks is a real talent who far outstrips those Feinstein and Connick people he superficially resembles. Jazzscene July, 1993 By Wayne Thompson NEW STANDARDS, ROBERT HICKS, piano, vocals. What a treat! It takes a Chet Baker fan to know one. Actually, Hicks has a much better tone and sense of pitch than Baker, even the young Baker, before drugs and a hard life coarsened Chet's voice and delivery. 'Don't Worry 'Bout Me' was the give-away tune. I found no evidence in my record collection that Chet Baker had ever recorded this Rube Bloom/Ted Koehler ballad. Had he done so, he would have had to ask Robert Hicks for permission. For me, Hicks own that song now. While his singing is the prominent feature, including some imaginative scat singing that Mel Torme would admire, Hicks' piano work is also first rate - a light touch, a minimalist style not unlike a George Shearing. He's got the whole package. On this album, Hicks is assisted by some superb West Coast players, such as trombonist George Bohanon, trumpeter Graham Young and saxophonist Doug Webb. This is a keeper, for the fire, late at night, with romance in the air. Velocity Records, 1992, VCD 82863, Playing time 53:08, **** CD Review Magazine January, 1993 By Thomas Conrad Robert Hicks is a charmer. He has joie de vivre that sounds genuine - though it's hard to find in these psychically turbulent times - when supported by solid musicianship. He makes you think of Harry Connick Jr. because he is a young singer/pianist/arranger with a subtle, '90s slant on nostalgia. His tenor voice is lighter and prettier that Connick's, but Hicks can still achieve serious affects: 'Don't Worry 'Bout Me' is a gentle, adult love song, and the escapist 'Moonlight In Vermont' manages to be both ethereal and convincing. Hicks' liberated spirit applies many twists and tangents. Cole Porter's 'I Get A Kick Out Of You' evolves into an exercise in tension and release. Jerome Kern's 'The Song Is You' soars and bounces on the elastic snap of Chuck Flores' brushes and Morty Corb's bass (not to mention Hicks' ecstatic shoobee-doobies). There are firm jazz foundations beneath all this fun. Hicks prods himself with his own precise piano fills. The horn soloists - trumpeter Graham Young, reed player Doug Webb, trombonist George Bohanon - are interesting individualists who are seamlessly meshed into Hicks' whimsical world. If you are not too jaded for a voice with a smile in it, if you understand how urbanity and sentimentality can sometimes fruitfully coexist, if you are reassured by the subtle signs of craftsmanship, then Robert Hicks will work for you too. NEW STANDARDS *** Pulse! Magazine December 1993 By Steve Gruber Robert Hicks is a very talented singer/pianist/arranger in his 20s whose current album New Standards (Velocity) is actually a collection of new versions of some old standards. Unlike some young singers who approach the standard repertoire with some bewilderment and a lot of forced effort, Hicks obviously understands these songs and is very comfortable performing them. His scat singing on 'You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To' and 'The Song Is You' compares favorably with that of Mel Torme. And there's a smoothness to his ballad singing on 'Moonlight In Vermont' and 'Early Autumn' that may remind you of Chet Baker. Accompaniment ranges from Hicks' piano with bass and drums on some tracks to a big-band sound on 'Carioca' with trumpets, trombones and saxes. BIO: Robert Hicks was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He began playing the playing the piano at the age of five, teaching himself to play by ear from the 78 rpm records of Tommy Dorsey and Stan Kenton he had dug out of his grandmother's attic. His phonograph records were his toys. In lieu of a teddy bear he slept with an album of rhumbas. He began singing jazz at the age of eight and began classical and jazz piano study with Gene Confer at age nine. At sixteen he began playing professionally around Portland. His first gig was at the old Delevan's restaurant where he entertained regularly. From early childhood, Robert's thoughts were filled mostly with jazz. He had memorized the tunes, the arrangements and the artists who made jazz and the big band era great. It was natural for him to want to work in the entertainment capitol so, at age 22, he moved to Hollywood, California to continue his career. He started getting work immediately. He performed as a single act in countless clubs in the Los Angeles area and sang with Tom, Dick & Jane, a jazz vocal trio reminiscent of Lambert, Hendricks & Ross; his composition, 'That Was The End of Me' was featured in the Columbia Pictures' release, 'Miracle Beach', which led him to start his own publishing company, Jobobal Music. In 1989 he took a six-month hiatus from performing in LA to play in clubs throughout Japan. When asked how it felt to be alone in a big city with no contacts, he said, 'I never thought of it that way. It was new and extremely exciting. I started working right away. Childhood dreams were being realized. For instance after being in LA for only six weeks, I saw my name in lights on Sunset Boulevard, when I played the Silver Screen jazz club. This was a major thrill for a young musician who had just left home. And I was meeting people whose names I had previously only seen on record albums. There were rewards everywhere. A particularly pleasant occasion was sharing the stage with Anita O'Day at the Vine Street Bar & Grill'. Over a seven year period he sang and played the piano in many of LA's top nightclubs and hotels, and one of his favorite venues was the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena where he led a quintet four nights a week. It was there that he met Pete Rugolo, one of his childhood role models. Robert was in the midst of recording his first compact disc entitled 'New Standards' and Pete Rugolo agreed to do the liner notes. Notable guest artists on the project include guitarist Al Viola and trombone player George Bohanon. The disc received substantial radio play throughout the U.S., and rave reviews in such national trades as CD Review, Pulse! And Cadence. In the fall of 1992, Robert decided to return to Portland, lured by the vibrant jazz scene and his love of the great outdoors. Over the last few years he has performed in such diverse locations as Switzerland, St. Thomas, San Francisco, Alaska, Atlanta, New York City and again in Japan. In addition to his performances in nightclubs, he has led groups ranging from a duo to an octet which have entertained at countless private parties and corporate events. His eight-piece ensemble has been enthusiastically received at various concert venues including the Jazz Society of Oregon's annual First Jazz, Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts, Chemeketa Jazz Series, Art in the Park and for capacity crowds at the Old Church. Robert writes all of the arrangements for the group. He has also done occasional writing for television commercials and film, and has appeared in commercials and print ads. In 1996 he conceived, produced, music directed, designed and performed in the concert, 'Pete Rugolo Conducts...', the first ever retrospective on the legendary composer/arranger's body of work. The concert took place at the Newmark Theater - Portland Center for the Performing Arts, and Mr. Rugolo flew in from LA to conduct the orchestra. The success of that evening inspired Robert to realize another life-long dream, and in 1999 he recorded his second compact disc, 'Textures in Hi-Fi', which he recorded in Hollywood with Pete Rugolo's spectacular 19-piece, all-star orchestra. The album contains new arrangements which Pete wrote especially for Robert, and updated remakes of classics from Rugolo's prolific career. In the summer of 2000 after the CD release concert at Portland's Crystal Ballroom, Robert and Pete were the headliners of the 20th annual Cathedral Park Jazz Festival, where they performed the album with the Carlton Jackson-Dave Mills Big Band. In the winter of 2001 Robert starred onstage in 'Tru', the two-act one-man play about Truman Capote, directed by Helena de Crespo at Theatre, Theatre! He continues to perform and travels extensively.