Piano great Hank Jones has just passed on at the ripe age of 91. It is normally supposed to be 'ripe old age', but anyone who has had the good fortune to see Hank Jones' piano playing of late would surely agree he was 'old' only in musical wisdom, wistful melodic wit and depth of soul.
I will not go into details on the life and long professional career (nearly eight decades from the age of 13!) of this legendary jazz man. For a 'proper' obituary and remembrance you can go read Peter Keepnews at the New York Times or Patrick Jarenwattananon at A Blog Supreme / NPR Jazz, with plenty of worthwhile links. And more will surely follow.
Hank Jones played with a nearly endless list of jazz luminaries: Coleman Hawkins, Billy Eckstine, Benny Goodman, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane... In the last few decades he continued to develop and blossomed as a leader in his own right, while remaining one of the most sought after pianists demanded by the top names in jazz. He has backed vocalists from Ella Fitzgerald to Frank Sinatra to Diana Krall and many, many more. Though set to celebrate his 92nd birthday on July 31, he remained incredibly active; the NY Times obituary reports his schedule was booked full through Fall.
But Hank has now slipped off to join his brother Elvin Jones, the great drummer forever associated with John Coltrane and leader of his own combos, and Thad Jones, trumpeter, composer, arranger and co-founder/leader of the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Jones big band. Some serious soulful swinging at the pearly gates tonight.
Curious piece of jazz trivia: If you think you have never heard Hank Jones playing the piano, you are probably mistaken — Hank Jones was the pianist who backed Marilyn Monroe in her highly celebrated steamy rendition of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" sung for JFK at Madison Square Garden in 1962.
I close with a photo, not of Marilyn, but of a gorgeous soul and beautiful, dearly appreciated musician, Hank Jones, taken last summer in Spain at the San Sebastián Jazz Festival.
|Hank Jones in San Sebastián, July 2009. Photo: Rafa Rivas/AFP/Getty Images|