Patti Wicks

Feb 24, 1945 to March 7. 2014 

Patti died March 7 in West Palm Beach, Florida. She was 69 and the cause was heart failure. Bio —

In a jazz marketplace saturated with singer/pianists, Patti Wicks stands apart. She is the real thing - a pianist with a highly personal style of playing and a singer with an instantly recognizable voice. Her superior musicianship, impeccable taste and singular ability to dig deep inside the meaning of a lyric have earned her the respect of her fellow jazz musicians, the unqualified praise of jazz critics, and the admiration of a constantly expanding audience of devoted fans. Despite the inherent difficulties of a career in jazz, Wicks has remained steadfast in her commitment to the music and in her determination to find success on her own terms.

Patti Wicks learned to overcome challenges at a very early age. The former Patricia Ellen Chappell was born two months premature, a medical crisis that left her visually impaired. Fortunately, her hearing more than compensated for her limited eyesight. At the age of three, Patti sat listening to her mother play the piano. She then walked over to the piano and played note for note the song her mother had just finished. Her stunned parents realized that Patti had a special gift and decided to find her a piano teacher. However, all the teachers they spoke with had the same question - How do you teach the piano to a three-year-old who can't see the sheet music? It wasn't until Patti's parents met Pat Kleinmeyer that a they found a solution. A Julliard graduate, Kleinmeyer developed an innovative teaching method that would allow Patti to learn to play the piano by ear. In addition to the traditional classical piano training, she also encouraged Patti's natural interest in composing and improvising and taught her basic music theory.

Patti developed her passion for jazz while attending the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. At Crane, Patti studied with James Ball, an accomplished classical and jazz pianist. He introduced her to the music of many jazz greats, including pianist Bill Evans who would have a major influence on Patti's style as a jazz pianist. She quickly immersed herself in the music, listening to jazz recordings, playing at jam sessions and playing week-end gigs at clubs. By the time she graduated college she was ready to embark on a career as a professional jazz musician.

Over the next thirty years, Patti Wicks honed her craft playing New York City jazz clubs as well as clubs and concerts up and down the East Coast jazz circuit from Maine to Florida. Her trio featured a variety of musicians including bassists Sam Jones, Richard Davis, Brian Torff and Mark Dresser, and drummers Curtis Boyd, Louis Hayes, Mickey Roker and Alan Dawson. In addition to her work as a leader, Wicks played with veteran jazz musicians Flip Phillips, Clark Terry, Cecil Payne, Frank Morgan, Ira Sullivan, Pete Minger, Richie Cole, Larry Coryell and Turk Mauro. She has also accompanied jazz vocalists Anita O'Day, Sheila Jordan, Carol Sloane, Rebecca Parris, Roseanna Vitro and Giacomo Gates. Throughout her career Patti has also been actively involved in jazz education teaching jazz piano at the college level, as well as working as a private vocal coach and jazz piano instructor.

In 1997 Patti Wicks released her first CD, co-produced by bassist Don Payne on his Recycled Notes label. "Room At The Top: The Patti Wicks Trio" received strong reviews and national airplay. In reviewing "Room At The Top" for National Public Radio's "Jazz Riffs", critic Joel E. Siegel observed, "The album establishes [Wicks] as a world class singer/pianist in the tradition of Nat Cole, Jeri Southern and Shirley Horn."

In 1999, Wicks recorded the commercial for Wyndham International Hotels and Resorts, playing and singing "They Can't Take That Away From Me". It was aired for two years on television and radio stations worldwide.

With the release of her latest CD project in 2003, "Love Locked Out" on the MAXJAZZ label, Wicks has finally moved out onto the international jazz stage.

Produced by Joel E. Siegel and featuring bassist Keter Betts and drummer Joe LaBarbera, "Love Locked Out" is a gripping all-ballad album in the tradition of Carmen McRae's "Bittersweet" and Irene Kral's "Where Is Love?". The CD received rave reviews in JazzTimes, Cadence Magazine, All About Jazz, Jazz Review and the All Music Guide. In reviewing the album for the Washington Post, jazz critic Mike Joyce observed, "If you were to listen...closely--very closely--in search of a shrill note or a needlessly ornamental vocal embellishment, or search even further for an emotionally shallow interpretation or a run-of the-mill lyric, you'd come up empty-handed every time."

Since the release of "Love Locked Out," Wicks has performed at major international jazz clubs from the Blue Note in Milan to Blues Alley in Washington, D.C. She also played at several jazz festivals including the Cape May Jazz Festival, the Anguilla Jazz Festival in the British West Indies, Syracuse Festival: Jazz In The Square, and in Italy, at the Livorno Jazz Festival and La Spezia Jazz Festival.

Although now based in South Florida, New York native Patti Wicks continues to return home to play in New York's jazz clubs. In October 2003 jazz legend Marian McPartland invited Patti to be her guest on National Public Radio's award-winning series "Piano Jazz".

Patti returned to Italy in July and December, 2004 with concerts in Florence, Saluzzo, Rome and Genoa. A new CD, produced by Massimo Visentin on the Jazz Guests label, was recorded in July. "Basic Feeling" features Patti and Claudio Chiara on alto sax, as part of the JazzMates Quartet, with bassist Giovanni Sanguineti and drummer Giovanni Gullino.  Distributed by EGEA Records, the CD was released in Italy on January 10, 2005, with release in the UK scheduled for spring of 2005.

"Patti Wicks is the artist responsible for the extraordinary Basic Feeling, her "Italian" album, currently being distributed by EGEA Records. The record is a real gem that deserves a wide audience and should appeal to everyone, not just jazz connoisseurs."
-- Fabio Francione, IL CITTADINO  

In December, 2006, her newest, critically acclaimed CD, Italian Sessions, was released on the Italian label SFR.  The CD, recorded at the end of their 2005 tour, again features Patti's Italian rhythm section, this time with special guest, Gianni Basso, Italy's legendary jazz tenor saxophonist.

"Italian Sessions reprises Patti's Italian venture, recorded this time in 2005.…The
instrumental solos here, especially from Patti and Gianni [Basso], are exceptional and the singing exemplary throughout, as indeed it always is." 
-- Bruce Crowther 

In 2007, Patti has continued performing throughout the US and again, in May, in Italy where another CD was recorded, with just the trio.
This new CD, "It's A Good Day" was just released in mid-October.  A  promotional tour begins on November 22, following Patti's performance on the JazzCruise 2007.

Whether it is in an intimate jazz club or on a large concert stage or in a classroom, Patti Wicks is driven by her desire to share the music she loves. Her commitment to jazz and her integrity as an artist have not gone unnoticed. As guitarist Joe Beck has said, "People like her have to exist for jazz as we know it to exist."

Excerpt from 

...Vocalist and pianist Patti Wicks, who worked primarily in New York and Florida for more than four decades, recording a series of well-received albums and playing countless gigs, died March 7 in West Palm Beach, Fla. She was 69 and the cause was heart failure.... As a sidewoman and accompanist, Wicks worked with Clark Terry, Larry Coryell, Frank Morgan, Ira Sullivan, Flip Phillips, Anita O’Day, Rebecca Parris, Roseanna Vitro, Giacomo Gates and others. She also taught jazz piano at colleges and privately....

Excerpt from Jazz & Blues Florida

...Patti Wicks passed away March 7, 2014 following a heart attack the previous Sunday.  She was taken off life support March 6 around 4:30 p.m. and moved to Hospice where she died about 12 hours later....


Patti Wicks