Sunday, May 23, 2010

Have You Met Mr. Jones?

When the wonderful pianist Hank Jones died a week ago, Jazz writer Doug Ramsey used a striking four-word phrase--"The parade outward continues"--to introduce his in-pieces tribute (starting here). Hank's passing in fact unleashed a print and Internet blizzard of comments, tributes, essays, remembrances, and remarks. While Doug's curious phrase was compelling in itself, its implication of too many elder Jazzmen exiting this life became both eloquent and ineffably sad.

I too loved the deft and lingeringly lovely touch of Hank at the keyboard. I've owned scores of albums he graced, from the studio dates with Charlie Parker that helped solidify his early rep as casually excellent Bop Era pianist, through the leaner years when Jazz was struggling and Jones left adrift, but which soon led to the several "Great Jazz Trio" albums he recorded in Japan (sometimes with brother Elvin); and then to his masterful mid-life duets (on disc and in concert) with John Lewis and Tommy Flanagan, and his spiffy turn as Fats Waller reincarnate (for the stage musical Ain't Misbehavin'), to his later years as quietly charming, still agile and brilliant elder statesman--who stubbornly kept working every day to "improve" his playing!

Fortunately I did get to see him in person a couple of times over the decades. But I don't have any personal anecdotes or unique insights that might enhance the heartfelt messages of the many who have preceded me. This notice, then, is as brief as Hank's 91 years were long--the equivalent of one keyboard run by the genial Mr. Jones. Remember the great and grand Hank by listening to his hundreds, maybe thousands of recordings, including his composition "Hank You Thank."

Hank's for the memories.

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