Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hank Jones at 91, Legenday Jazz Pianist/Composer/Grammy Winner

Our In Box, this morning, carried the sad news, of the death of the great Jazz pianist, Hank Jones, at age 91, in the Bronx, New York.

We were lucky to have seen Hank Jones perform a handful of times, and it was always tremendous, a consummate professional, you left a Hank Jones show satisfied, and in awe, of his, seemingly, effortlessly manner of employing his gift.

From Dan Heckman, LA Times;

Hank Jones, jazz pianist who spanned styles and generations, dies at 91

Praised for the feather-soft precision of his touch, Jones was equally adept at unleashing the piano's full, orchestral gamut of sounds. Rhythmic lift and propulsive swing were inherent to his playing, whether performing as an accompanist or in a solo setting. And his deep understanding of harmony was the foundation for a skilled mastery of the diverse material in the Great American Songbook.


As recently as 2008, Los Angeles jazz audiences heard Jones in a pair of Southland performances — in a trio concert at UCLA and a 90th birthday celebration at the Hollywood Bowl — clearly illustrating that he had long ago ascended to the lofty level he described.


Over the next 15 years he was a first-call accompanist for virtually every major jazz artist of the time, backing Fitzgerald, Davis, Young, Adderley, Hawkins, Holiday and Ben Webster, among others. A three-year run with Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic from 1947 to 1950 matched him with Roy Eldridge, Max Roach and Parker. In 1955, with the release of "The Trio of Hank Jones" (with Wendell Marshall and Kenny Clarke), he began a six-decade sequence of supplementing his busy sideman schedule with recordings under his own name.

Look through your collection of Jazz records (okay, CD's, or downloads), and you may be surprised on just how many that Jones is manning the piano.

Peter Keepnews, NYT;
Mr. Jones spent much of his career in the background. For three and a half decades he was primarily a sideman, most notably with Ella Fitzgerald; for much of that time he also worked as a studio musician on radio and television.

His fellow musicians admired his imagination, his versatility and his distinctive style, which blended the urbanity and rhythmic drive of the Harlem stride pianists, the dexterity of Art Tatum and the harmonic daring of bebop. (The pianist, composer and conductor AndrĂ© Previn once called Mr. Jones his favorite pianist, “regardless of idiom.”)
And, as to that "effortless" way of playing?
“I think the way you practice has a lot to do with it,” he explained. “If you practice scales religiously and practice each note firmly with equal strength, certainly you’ll develop a certain smoothness. I used to practice a lot. I still do when I’m at home.” Mr. Jones was 78 years old at the time.

BBC: Hank Jones obituary

RIP Hank Jones, but do it as you always have - keep on swingin'!

Here's a few tunes you can check out.

Hank Jones - On Green Dolphin Street

Hank Jones Trio 1979 - Bluesette

Hank Jones: Willow Weep For Me

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