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HANK JONES: July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010 ~ In Memoriam

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Thad Jones | Elvin Jones | Hank Jones

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Henry ‘Hank’ Jones
July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010

 

Slick Licks and Lazy Clichés Got No Free Ride
When He Soloed

Still growing up in Detroit, still in my teens, it was my good fortune to have met and rubbed shoulders with each of “the Jones Boys” — pianist Hank, trumpeter Thad, and little brother Elvin, a fierce drummer. Technically, they were from Pontiac, close enough to Big D for them to qualify as Detroiters. At 15 I became a regular contributor of articles and poems to Idioms, the publication of the Motor City’s New Music Society. We held meetings and edited the tabloid-sized journal at the busy bohemian home of Harold and Jodi Neal. During the day Harold climbed telephone poles for Michigan Bell, but at night and on weekends he was a serious, imaginative painter. It wasn’t unusual for musicians and other artists to attend the Sunday afternoon-into-evening meetings the Neals hosted at 824 Atkinson Street, where they were also raising their daughter Chinyere (a.k.a. Jan) and her little brother Harold, Jr. (a.k.a. Sule).

What a heady time. Even then, a non-stop reader, listener and observer of life, I seemed to understand fully how valuable this period in my development would become. Monday nights I made it to World Stage in closeby Highland Park, a theater-in-the round venue, where local and touring musicians would gather and jam on the only night that most clubs sat dark. Barry Harris, Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, Dorothy Ashby, Pepper Adams, Yusef Lateef, Donald Byrd, Doug Watkins, Earl Williams, Kirk Lightsey, Louis Hayes, Curtis Fuller, Roy Haynes, Frank Wess, Paul Chambers, Roy Brooks, Harold and Bernard McKinney, Charles McPherson, Lonnie Hillyer, Alice McLeod (the future Mrs. Coltrane), Terry Gibbs, Doug Watkins, Joe Henderson, and the Jones Boys — these are some of the musicians who showed up at World Stage or in the Neals’ diningroom, where we argued, planned and laid out Idioms.

Like saxophonist Yusef Lateef, whom I practically worshiped as a model artist, Hank Jones held a high place at my jazz altar. Born the same year as my father and the eldest of the family’s musical threesome (in all there were 10 Jones children), he had long ago emigrated from Michigan to New York, where he made a shining name for himself. But of course he would gig from time to time in the old adopted hometown. It was the strong yet gentle way did everything that stuck with me. My earliest concept of what it meant to be sophisticated flowed into me from his speaking and playing presence. His technical mastery of the keyboard, his savvy, sassy lyricism , his love and respect for the bebop repertoire as well as straight standards and popular song wasn’t wasted on me, either. Hank Jones knew what to play, what to skip, and to skip and what to leave unstated unstated. Slick licks and lazy clichĂ©s got no free ride when he soloed. Taste and class were always his signature. For me, way back then, in another troubled century, Hank Jones’ playing personified the virtues of eloquence and poise in the presence of passion. The adjective we favored was hip.

— Al Young

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Link courtesy of Muse Records’ producer Fred Seibert and ‘Kathleen Loves Music’ at Frederator Blogs: Cartoon Central of the Internet, a genuinely original site

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Peter Keepnews: Hank Jones, Versatile Jazz Pianist, Is Dead at 91 | The New York Times, May 17, 2010

Culture Obituaries: Hank Jones | Telegraph.co.uk, 17 May 2010

atc75x75 NPR’s All Things Considered: Legendary Pianist Hank Jones Dies at 91 | May 17, 2010

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The Official Website of Hank Jones

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