Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hank Jones, Jazz Icon, Joins Ancestors at 91

May 17, 2010 http://detnews.com/article/20100517/ENT04/5170382

Jazz's iconic pianist Hank Jones dead at 91

The Detroit News

Pianist Hank Jones, the last of the jazz world's iconic Jones brothers from Pontiac, died Sunday night in a New York hospital after a brief illness, at age 91.

Jones, who would have been 92 in July, performed in his usual elegant, spare style on the opening night of last September's Detroit International Jazz Festival, which was titled "Keepin' Up With the Joneses." And he accepted honors from the festival, the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan on behalf of himself and his brothers, drummer Elvin (who played most famously with John Coltrane in the early '60s) and trumpet and flugelhorn player Thad (who played with Count Basie and then fronted his own band). Thad Jones died in 1986 and Elvin Jones died in 2004.

"Hank Jones was an elegant man and pianist, who represented Detroit's jazz legacy like no other," said Detroit Jazz Festival director Terri Pontremoli. "I know I'm only one of thousands who witnessed his performance last year, and the point where the moon suddenly rose above the stage as if it was orchestrated. Seeing Chick Corea backstage -- as close as he could get to Hank without actually being on the stage -- watching this master, was really touching. While we will miss his beautiful touch, how fortunate we've been to have him "practicing" -- his word -- in our midst all these years."

The 2009 Jazz Festival artist-in-residence, bassist John Clayton, performed a special piece commissioned as a tribute to the Jones brothers, called "T.H.E. Thad, Hank and Elvin Family, Detroit."

"I wanted this music to reflect some of the great things that Detroit is about," Clayton told The Detroit News last September, "and the Jones family was there at the height of the early days of jazz in Detroit."

Because his life stretched out for most of the 20th century, Hank Jones absorbed and embodied many of that century's diverse styles of piano, from the early sound of stride to '30s and '40s swing to bop. His influences spanned an equally wide range of styles; he cited Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum in an interview with National Public Radio last year.

Jones was known for most of his career as a sideman for others, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman, and worked for years in the CBS-TV orchestra, but late in life started leading a trio, celebrated for his understated, subtle style.

Technically the pianist wasn't a Michigan native; he was born in Vicksburg, Miss., and came to Pontiac as a child when his father moved the family there (brothers Elvin and Thad were born in Pontiac). He gave credit in interviews to his parents for always having music in the home; whether playing guitar and piano, or listening to records on a phonograph player, before the family had a radio.

Despite his age, Jones kept a busy performing schedule, and had concert dates scheduled through autumn.

Detroit News wire services contributed to this report. swhitall@detnews.com">swhitall@detnews.com (313) 222-2156. Detroit News wire services contributed to this report. swhitall@detnews.com">swhitall@detnews.com (313) 222-2156.

No comments: