3:07pm

Wed January 26, 2005
Columns

Hank Jones on Jazz Profiles

Pianist Hank Jones is honored on Jazz Profiles at 5:00 pm January 30th on WMOT Jazz 89.5

The Jones Brothers are among the first families of jazz: Elvin Jones, whose powerful drumming has propelled countless bands, including the classic John Coltrane group of the 60's; Thad Jones, the late leader of one of the great large ensembles of recent decades; and Hank Jones, one of the rare pianists today who is a modern master of tasteful and expressive playing. Each has had lasting musical impact. We'll hear from these remarkable brothers, of their common experiences and individual triumphs, as well as from colleagues such as McCoy Tyner.


Good taste personified, Hank Jones has served as an MVP-level pianist in a vast array of settings, always lending a distinctive, swinging sensibility to everything he touches. Raised in Pontiac, MI in a musical family that included brothers Thad and Elvin, his earliest influences were Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Art Tatum, and Teddy Wilson. A performer by the time he was 13, Jones played with territory bands that toured Michigan and Ohio. In one such band he met saxophonist Lucky Thompson, who got him a job in the Hot Lips Page band in 1944, prompting young Hank?s move to New York.

Once he got to New York and became exposed to the new style known as bebop, Jones was smitten. Meanwhile he took jobs with such bandleaders as John Kirby, Coleman Hawkins, Andy Kirk, Billy Eckstine, and Howard McGhee. He toured with Norman Granz?s Jazz at the Philharmonic in 1947. As a result he became Ella Fitzgerald?s pianist, touring with her from 1948-1953. These experiences served to broaden his pallet and sophistication. Hank?s bop immersion gave him a comfort level that served him well when he made recordings with Charlie Parker during this period.

A consummate freelancer, Jones found work with artists as diverse as Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, to Milt Jackson and Cannonball Adderley. The versatility he acquired through such affiliations gave him the flexibility required of a studio musician when he joined the staff of CBS, where he remained for 17 years. His studio work found him working on productions like the Ed Sullivan Show. Jones never went totally into studio work, continuing his touring and recording experiences in a variety of settings. His broad range and ability to fit in different settings also landed him in Broadway pit bands, where he served as pianist and conductor for such shows as Ain?t Misbehavin?.

Hank was the first regular pianist in brother Thad?s co-led orchestra with Mel Lewis, beginning in 1966. Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s Hank Jones continued to be much in-demand for record dates and tours. Among his affiliations was the Great Jazz Trio, a cooperative unit with Ron Carter and Tony Williams, who were later supplanted by Buster Williams and Ben Riley. Jones has also experienced his share of piano duos, with the likes of Tommy Flanagan, with whom he became acquainted when both were developing around the Detroit area, George Shearing, and John Lewis. As a leader and valued sideman, Hank Jones can be found on thousands of recordings.