Tony Hicks, master of improvisation

Several of our upcoming songs feature Australian woodwind artist Tony Hicks. Tony performed with the Australian Art Orchestra for many years. Additionally, he was a key player in Crossing Roper Bar, the orchestra’s award-winning collaboration with indigenous Wagilak songmen from Ngukurr, Arnhem Land. He has performed with internationally recognized jazz and commercial superstars such as Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Billy Cobham, Randy Brecker, and Lalah Hathaway, among others.

The experience of working with Tony was one of the most unique creative songwriting experiences of my career. I had recorded some monotonous xylophone melody parts from beginning to end for the two songs he performed on, which Tony improvised over. Having a jazz and experimental improvisational style as dynamic as Tony’s made it easy to experiment with this odd approach to songwriting.

His unique style of playing was evident in the beautiful and melodious parts he played. Despite the oddity of the approach, he did not seem phased.

Each song had a romantic theme. After these sessions, we took the xylophone and saxophone parts to the studio, deleted the xylophone parts, and used the saxophone parts as the basis for the songs. It resulted in a couple of soulful songs that really showcase Tony’s musicianship. The two songs that he played on and contributed significantly to were “Beautiful Girl” and “We Fell In Love”.

Tony was a perfect fit for our experimental approach to songwriting and his improvisational approach influenced subsequent sessions.