Robert Hicks was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. At the age of five, he taught himself to play the piano by ear from listening to the 78-rpm records of Tommy Dorsey and Artie Shaw he had discovered in his grandmother’s attic. Phonograph records were his toys…in lieu of a teddy bear he slept with an album of rumbas. 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 performing professionally around Portland.
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 and started getting work immediately. After just four weeks, he saw his name in lights when he performed at the Silver Screen Jazz Club on Sunset Boulevard. 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. He shared the stage with Anita O’Day at the Vine Street Bar & Grill, and then took a six-month hiatus from LA to play in clubs throughout Japan.
Over a seven-year period he performed in many of LA’s top nightclubs and hotels. 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 legendary composer/arranger Pete Rugolo, one of his childhood role models. Robert was in the midst of recording his first compact disc entitled “New Standards” and Rugolo agreed to write the liner notes. The disc received substantial radio play throughout the U.S. and rave reviews in national trade magazines.
Robert decided to return to Portland, lured by the vibrant jazz scene and his love of the great outdoors. His eight-piece ensemble has been enthusiastically received at various Pacific Northwest 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 composed for television commercials and film, and has appeared in many commercials and print ads.
He conceived, produced, music directed, designed and performed in the concert, “Pete Rugolo Conducts…”, the first ever retrospective of Rugolo’s body of work. The concert took place at the Newmark Theater, Portland Center for the Performing Arts, with Mr. Rugolo conducting the Art Abrams Swing Machine Big Band and featuring vocalist Rebecca Kilgore. The success of that evening inspired Robert to realize another life-long dream: he produced his second compact disc, “Textures in Hi-Fi”, which he recorded in Hollywood with Rugolo’s spectacular 19-piece, all-star orchestra. Featured on the disc are such legendary musicians as Pete & Conte Candoli, Buddy Childers & Jack Costanzo. 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.
As a departure from his concert and club date schedule, Robert starred onstage in “Tru”, the two-act one-man play about Truman Capote, directed by Helena de Crespo for Triangle Productions. He continues to perform his music in such diverse locations as Switzerland, St. Thomas, Singapore, Bali, Tokyo, Bangkok, Seoul, Hong Kong, Austria, Chengdu, Shanghai, San Francisco and New York City.
“Hicks is a real talent…” – Jerome Wilson, Cadence Magazine
“Unlike some 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” – Steve Gruber, Pulse! Magazine
“Robert Hicks is a charmer. He has joie de vivre that sounds genuine-though it’s hard to find in these psychically turbulent times…” –Thomas Conrad, CD Review
“Hicks sings with beautiful intonation and clean articulation.” – Lynn Darroch, The Oregonian
“While his singing is the predominant feature…his piano work is also first rate—a light touch, a minimalist style, not unlike a George Shearing. He’s got the whole package.” –Wayne Thompson, Jazzscene
DISCOGRAPHY: New Standards; Textures in Hi-Fi (Velocity Records). Portland Jazz - Volumes 1 & 2 (Pillar Productions).