Hank Jones, a Genius of the Piano

by Tom Lee

It is with great sadness that we note the death last Sunday of Hank Jones (read the New York Times obituary ), a giant of the piano who was the Office for the Arts' Jazz Master in Residence at Harvard in 2005. One of the legendary Jones brothers (trumpeter Thad and drummer Elvin predeceased him), Hank was a quietly unassuming but commanding genius of the keyboard who performed and recorded well into his 80s. Early on, as a sideman, he worked with everyone—Ella Fitzgerald, saxophonists Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins, singer Billy Eckstine, bandleader Benny Goodman, to name just a few—but really came into his own later in his career when he assumed leadership of trios and began working under his own name. Noted Tom Everett, Director of Harvard University Bands and Jazz Advisor to the Office for the Arts, "Hank Jones' solos are deceiving: they are not based on volume, flashy technique, or attention-getting devices. He does not dominate. The playing is a model of elegance and refinement, and organically serves the voice of the music and soloists." And according to the man himself: "When you listen to a pianist, each note should have an identity, each note should have a soul of its own."Listen to a few of those sublime, soul-stirring notes, recorded during this performance of Jimmy Van Heusen's "Polkadots and Moonbeams" at Harvard in April of 2005 for an SRO audience at Cabot House, presented by Learning From Performers. [http://www.youtube.com/v/PSPCO4yok7o&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0]