With deep sadness, I have to report that pianist Frank Hewitt succumbed to cancer yesterday (9/5) at 9:30 AM at the age of 66. Since the mid 1950s, Frank had been one of the mainstays of the New York jazz scene. Born Oct 23, 1935 in Queens, he grew up in Harlem in Sugar Hill. In 1961, he appeared in The Living Theater's famous production of The Connection, playing alongside Cecil Payne. Over the years, Frank worked extensively as a sideman, having appeared with Cecil Payne, Howard McGhee, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, John Coltrane, and many others. He was a frequent contributor at The University of The Streets, and also at St Peter's church, the Jazz Vespers, where he often held down the yearly All Nite Soul celebration. He also spent considerable time playing with the late underground legend Clarence C" Sharpe.
In the last eight years, he was the featured artist at Smalls, appearing several times each week in the company of bassist Ari Roland. Frank was always respected among musicians as one of the top bebop pianist ever to come down the road. At Smalls, he was the most influential among Smalls' core constituency, and acknowledged by a generation of younger musicians there as the master among them. Many do not know how close-knit we are at Smalls. We were Frank's family in his later years, and he enriched all of our lives tremendously. He slipped away unexpectedly, and too fast. Many musicians showed up at the end to hold his hand, and wish him love.
We expect that there will be a memorial service at St Peter's and, I hope, a memorial segment on WKCR. Please join me for a moment in paying respect to one of the unsung greats.