Pianist Hank Jones passed away yesterday. He was 91, and he was active almost until the end. Adept in every aspect of the jazz art, his playing cruised confidently through decades of shifting stylistic tides, a true creative original. Mike Melvoin, a world class jazz pianist in his own right, has generously offered a few thoughtful insights about Jones, his music, his personality and the qualities that made him such an honored figure among his creative associates.
By Mike Melvoin
Hank Jones was complete, balanced, intelligent, quietly passionate, dryly witty, elegant and super-professional. He knew and employed the widest range of attitude and nuance to jazz piano of anyone I ever heard. He inspired me. And he swung with an ease and physicality that did not depend on the obvious dynamics. He made me smile. He could make the toughest diva smile too. And he found something good in many different kinds of music and roles.
I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing him at a recital at UCLA (Friends of Jazz) where he not only disarmed the room full of experienced listeners but opened his heart and mind for us to experience the joy in his process. Hank held himself to the highest standards and was noted from studio to world wide concerts as simply the absolute best.
As Harry “Sweets” Edison used to say: “It ain’t gonna get no better than that!”
Photo by Tony Gieske. To see his gallery of photos from Jones’ last appearance in Los Angeles, click here.
To read Don Heckman’s Los Angeles Times obituary for Hank Jones click here.