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Jazz Stories

Remembering Hank Jones: A Tribute by Bob Perkins


BP reflects on the master pianist's impact on the jazz world.

A finely tuned jazz ear can easily identify the beautiful and light-as-a-feather touch of Hank Jones at the piano. The man's technique and lyricism were second to none. I'm using the past tense because Mr. Jones passed on at the age of 91 on May 16, 2010. For my two cents, Hank's piano style was top shelf - he was a complete pianist, in that he could work solo and make it interesting enough to hold listener attention. He could jam with the best (which he did for seven decades) and then play as pretty as you please. Read More...

Hank could also accompany the best singers in the jazz and standard-pop genre (including Ella Fitzgerald for five years) and make it all sound so easy. He was a very good sight-reader - which he had to be - to remain a staff-musician at CBS for 17 years. There was no chart too difficult for Hank Jones to deal with. Not only could he play someone else's complex arrangements, but also make them turn out better than they'd been written. Even during his last days, he was in constant demand as a soloist, small group leader, and vocal accompanist.

Hank hailed from one of the very few trios of internationally renowned brothers in jazz: Brother Thad, played trumpet and was a top composer/arranger; and drummer, Elvin, was a mainstay with the storied John Coltrane quartet. Both preceded Hank in death.

Ironically, just a few years ago, Hank and singer Abbey Lincoln were in the same hospital, undergoing a similar heart procedure. This coincidence made news throughout the jazz world, as the two wheel-chair-bound jazz greats were pictured on the Internet, with their doctors.

Hank Jones left legacy, legend and a fine discography. He must have been a sensitive soul to play as he did...and how fortunate we jazz lovers are, that he shared his gifts with us for so many years.--BP

Watch and Listen: Hank Jones plays "Willow Weep for Me" at Carnegie Hall in 1994

All About Hank Jones from NPR