[Dixielandjazz] Pianist Hank Jones Obit
Stephen G Barbone
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon May 17 13:32:13 PDT 2010
Here is Hank Jones' obit from the from the L.A. Times:
Hank Jones, jazz pianist who spanned styles and generations, dies at 91
The brother of drummer Elvin Jones and trumpeter Thad Jones was noted
for his versatility, craftsmanship and the feather-soft precision of
his touch. Among his many jobs: playing piano for Marilyn Monroe when
she sang 'Happy Birthday' to President Kennedy in 1962.
By Don Heckman, Special to the Los Angeles Times
12:01 PM PDT, May 17, 2010
Hank Jones, whose extraordinary combination of versatility,
craftsmanship and creativity during his nearly eight-decade career
earned him the reputation as a jazz pianist's pianist, died Sunday. He
Jones died at a hospital in New York after a brief illness, publicist
Jordy Freed said.
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.
"His style is as profound and defined as any of the major masters,"
jazz pianist Bill Charlap told the Detroit Free Press in 2006. "It's
equal to Teddy Wilson, equal to Bill Evans, equal to Thelonious Monk,
equal to Tommy Flanagan. It's as much a unique musical utterance and
just as balanced in terms of intellectualism and feeling. With Hank
Jones you hear the past, present and the future of jazz piano."
Jones' own evaluation of his playing was far more modest. Invited to
become a member of alto saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker's group in
the '40s, and trumpeter Miles Davis' band in the '50s, he declined the
"Both times I said, 'I'm not good enough to do that,'" Jones recalled
in the 1997 Detroit Free Press piece. "Isn't that something? I
probably missed the chance of a lifetime."
Nevertheless, he played and recorded with Parker and Davis, as well as
other leading jazz artists including Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Billy
Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Milt Jackson,
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins and
Emerging on the jazz scene during the Swing Era years of the 1930s,
Jones was soon engulfed in the new wave of bebop arriving in the '40s.
As new stylistic patterns arrived, decade after decade, he continued
to find a way to transform his own playing, without losing his
creative essence as a jazz artist. In more recent years, he partnered
with younger players – saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Charlie Haden
and pianist Brad Mehldau among them. But his self-effacing view of his
own skills never changed.
In a conversation with Lovano for DownBeat magazine in 2005, he
discussed his desire to reach the musical "stream of consciousness"
achieved by players such as saxophonists Young and Hawkins. "It's not
the easiest thing in the world," Jones said. "I'm still trying to get
there myself. Just give me a little more time. Maybe another 100 years."
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 the lofty level he described.
Jones was the eldest of three brothers whose extraordinary
accomplishments established them as one of the jazz world's most
honored musical families. Thad Jones, five years younger, was a
trumpeter, bandleader and highly regarded arranger/composer. Elvin
Jones, nine years younger, was an innovative drummer best known for
his ground-breaking work with John Coltrane. Both died earlier -- Thad
in 1986; Elvin in 2004; "I just wish they could have lived longer,"
said Jones, "because they both still had so much to say."
Despite the high level of fraternal talent and familial closeness,
however, the three rarely performed or recorded together.
Born Henry Jones on July 31, 1918, in Vicksburg, Miss., he moved to
Pontiac, Mich., with his parents in the early 1920s. His father was a
Baptist deacon and a lumber inspector who also played the guitar; his
mother played the piano.
Jones' skills developed quickly, and despite his father's belief that
jazz was a "bad influence," Hank was working professional jobs with
traveling dance bands based in the Detroit area by the time he was in
his mid-teens. After graduating from high school, he continued working
as a busy sideman, before moving to New York City in 1944 to play with
the band of trumpeter Oran "Hot Lips" Page.
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.
Although Jones arrived on the scene at the time when the dominant jazz
style was transitioning from swing to bebop, he maintained his own
sense of creative equilibrium, always declining to describe himself as
a "full-fledged bebop player." Asked by Jazz Times magazine to name
his primary influences, he listed Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson and Fats
Waller -- each a player with a unique, musically omnivorous style. His
affection for Tatum, in particular, led him to maintain a degree of
separation from the rush to bebop that was attracting the players of
"Tatum was the first one to use all those harmonic devices that later
guys like Dizzy and Charlie used," Jones told this writer. "It sounded
new to people who heard it for the first time. But it wasn't new to
someone who'd listened to Art Tatum. He was Mozart, Chopin, Liszt,
Rachmaninoff, all rolled into one."
In the late 1950s, Jones was offered a staff position at CBS and opted
for the security of regular employment. The experience — which
included playing assignments reaching from "The Ed Sullivan Show" to
"Captain Kangaroo" — further enhanced his already eclectic abilities.
"Sometimes, you played accompaniments for singers," he said on an NPR
broadcast in 2008. "Sometimes you played for groups. Sometimes you
played for operatic sequences. Sometimes you played for elephant acts.
Sometimes, you played for dog acts.... So you did a variety of things,
all of which, when you added them up, contributed to your repertoire."
One of the other "variety of things" Jones did during that period was
to play piano for Marilyn Monroe when she sang "Happy Birthday" to
President John F. Kennedy at his 45th birthday celebration at Madison
Square Garden in May 1962.
When he left CBS in 1976, Jones embarked on a new phase in his career.
He performed on eight new albums over the next two years, and —in the
late '70s — was the musical director and onstage pianist for the
Broadway production of the Waller revue, "Ain't Misbehavin'." His
Great Jazz Trio recordings, which began in the mid-1970s with Ron
Carter and Tony Williams from Davis' rhythm section, eventually teamed
Jones with, among others, Eddie Gomez, Al Foster, Jimmy Cobb, John
Patitucci and Christian McBride. A series of piano duet encounters
matched him with John Lewis, Flanagan and Mehldau.
He also recorded "Steal Away," a set of hymns and spirituals with
Haden; accompanied singer Roberta Gambarini in highly praised sets of
standard tunes; collaborated with a Mandinka band from Mali; and
recorded a set of Jones' celebratory interpretations of Tatum
compositions — one of his many solo piano outings. More recently, his
duet partnership with Lovano was applauded as a remarkable interfacing
of musical generations.
Among his many honors, Jones was granted a National Medal of the Arts,
an NEA Jazz Masters Award, an ASCAP Jazz Living Legend Award and a
Jazz Journalists Assn. Lifetime Achievement Award. He also was
inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame and received five
Jones is survived by his wife, Theodosia.
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