The Hartt School Honors Late Jazz Legend Hank Jones
The jazz world and The Hartt School lost a great musician and friend on Sunday, May 16, 2010, when the legendary Hank Jones passed away. Mr. Jones, an artistic collaborator with and personal friend of Hartt faculty members Steve Davis and Nat Reeves, presented a master class, performed a concert with Hartt faculty and students, and received an honorary degree from the University of Hartford on April 13, 2009. He died in New York City yesterday, at 91 years of age. Obituaries and tributes to Mr. Jones are available at www.nytimes.com/2010/05/18/arts/music/18jones.html and www.allaboutjazz.com/php/news.php?id=56237.Hartt faculty member Steve Davis said of the news, "Nat Reeves and I, along with our students and faculty at The Hartt School's Jackie McLean Institute, feel extremely fortunate to have worked with Dr. Hank Jones. He was a dignified, witty gentleman - a superior musician with an absolutely sublime touch on the piano. Hank Jones was a true giant and will be greatly missed in the music world. We all will remember him fondly through his timeless music." Mr. Jones was a prolific American jazz pianist, bandleader, and composer who recorded more than 60 albums under his own name and countless others as a guest, was a top pianist since the days of swing and bebop. He played with virtually every jazz star one can think of and was part of many historic moments, including accompanying Marilyn Monroe's famous "Happy Birthday Mr. President" sung to President John F. Kennedy. He continued to record and perform with leading jazz artists throughout his career.In February, 2009, Mr. Jones was honored by the Recording Academy with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards. This Special Merit Award is presented to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artist significance to the field of recording.In November, 2008, President and Mrs. Laura Bush presented him with the National Medal of Arts, in recognition of his contributions to the creation, growth, and support of the arts in the United States. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Master's countless honors and titles also included: The International Jazz Hall of Fame; Congressional Achievement Award; Living Legend Jazz Wall of Fame: ASCAP; Grammy Nominations for "Bop Redux", Love for sale", and "I Remember You"; Jazz Journalist Award; Highlights in Jazz Award; and JazzFest 2002 Jazz Master.
The Hartt School is the comprehensive performing arts conservatory of the University of Hartford that offers innovative degree programs in music, dance and theatre. With more than 400 concerts, recitals, plays, master classes, dance performances and musical theatre productions a year, performance is central to Hartt's curriculum. For more information on The Hartt School, visit www.hartford.edu/hartt.Pictured: Hank Jones, performing with Hartt faculty member Steve Davis, during a Master Class at the University of Hartford's Milard Auditorium, in April, 2009. Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. By the age of 13 Jones was performing locally in Michigan and Ohio. While playing with territory bands in Grand Rapids and Lansing he met Lucky Thompson, who invited him to New York City in 1944 to work at the Onyx Club with Hot Lips Page. In New York, Jones regularly listened to leading bop musicians, and was inspired to master the new style. While practicing and studying the music he worked with John Kirby, Howard McGhee, Coleman Hawkins, Andy Kirk, and Billy Eckstine. In autumn 1947 he began touring in Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts, and from 1948 to 1953 he was accompanist for Ella Fitzgerald, developing a harmonic facility of extraordinary taste and sophistication. During this period he also made several historically important recordings with Charlie Parker for Norman Granz's labels. After several years as a freelance player, which included engagements with Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman, and recordings with such artists as Lester Young, Milt Jackson, Cannonball Adderley, and Wes Montgomery, in 1959 Jones joined the staff of CBS where he stayed until the staff was disbanded 17 years later. With his rare combination of talents as a strong soloist, sensitive accompanist, and adept sight-reader, Jones has always been in great demand for recording sessions of all kinds. By the late 1970s his involvement as pianist and conductor with the Broadway musical Ain't Misbehavin' (based on the music of Fats Waller) had informed a wider audience of his unique qualities as a musician.During the late 1970s and the 1980s Jones continued to record prolifically, as an unaccompanied soloist, in duos with other pianists (including John Lewis and Tommy Flanagan), and with various small ensembles, most notably the Great Jazz Trio. The group took this name in 1976, by which time Jones had already begun working at the Village Vanguard with its original members, Ron Carter and Tony Williams (it was Buster Williams rather than Carter, however, who took part in the trio's first recording session in 1976); by 1980 Jones' sidemen were Eddie Gomez and Al Foster, and in 1982 Jimmy Cobb replaced Foster. The trio has also recorded with other all-star personnel, such as Art Farmer, Benny Golson, and Nancy Wilson. In the early 1980s Jones held a residency as a solo pianist at the Cafe Ziegfeld and made a tour of Japan, where he performed and recorded with George Duvivier and Sonny Stitt. Born in 1918 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Hank Jones grew up in Pontiac, Michigan, and lived in upstate New York.