July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010
This morning’s post is by guest contributor, pianist Brian Buchanan. Brian shares his thoughts about legendary jazz pianist Hank Jones, who died May 16, 2010 at the age of 91 in New York City.
REMEMBERING HANK JONES
by Brian Buchanan
On my journey as a jazz pianist I have been influenced by many of the great masters. But there are only a handful that have had as big an impact on my growth and musical concept as Hank Jones.
I only heard him play once. That was in Sapporo Japan in 1991 where I was living at the time. Hank performed in a concert I attended that was billed as ‘100 Golden Fingers’. Joining Hank that evening were nine other fine jazz pianists and a rhythm section.
The show featured Tommy Flanagan, Duke Pearson, Kenny Barron, Roger Kellaway, Toshiko Akioshi, John Lewis, Barry Harris, Ray Bryant, Marian McPartland and of course Hank Jones. Each pianist performed one solo piece, a duo with another pianist, and a selection in trio with drummer Alan Dawson and basist Leroy Vinnegar. As a jazz pianist the the whole show was amazing. But for myself, the highlight of the night was hearing Hank Jones. His grace and elegance stood out, and his playing was deeply spiritual and rooted in tradition, yet as contemporary and harmonically complex as anyone.
I already knew about Hank Jones at that time, but after that show I made every effort to learn as much as I could about Hank and to find as many recordings as possible.
What I know about Hank’s career is that he was a first call pianist for many of the great jazz singers. His work as a vocal accompanist was superb. He was a a favorite with Billie Holliday, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and numerous others.
As a leader, Hank seemed to prefer working in a trio with bass and drums. He has an enormous discography that includes many fine trio recordings. Hank Jones was always in the best of company. His trio’s consisted of various sidemen and fellow bandleaders including Al Foster, Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Tony Williams, Ben Riley, Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath, Billy Higgins, Dave Holland, Sam Jones, Buster Williams, Ron Carter and more.
A personal favorite is a recording Hank made in duo with bassist Charlie Haden called ’Hymns Spirituals and Folk Songs’. It is an intimate and profound look inside some well known songs and hymns. The musical approach is a masterful interpretation steeped in jazz tradition and loaded with subtle rich harmony and melodic development.
Hank Jones came from a musical family. He was the elder brother to the great jazz drummer Elvin Jones and trumpet legend Thad Jones. They have all three left an indelible mark on the history of jazz and music.
For a wealth of information and access to many of Hank Jones recordings, I recommend visiting www.officialhankjones.com
I only wish I had been able to sit down and talk to Hank Jones. He was considered a fine and eloquent gentleman. I am sure he will be missed by many, but his music and generosity will live on forever.
Thank you for all the great memories and beautiful music.
God Bless you Mr. Jones