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Hank Jones

Few current musicians have had as lengthy and as productive a career as pianist Hank Jones. Born in Vicksburg, Miss. in 1918, Jones was the oldest of the three illustrious Jones brothers, which included cornetist-arranger Thad and drummer Elvin. He was also the first of the great Detroit pianists to emerge, preceding Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris and Roland Hanna. Jones grew up in Detroit, played in territory bands as a teenager, and moved to New York in 1944. He worked on 52nd Street with many all-stars and had associations with the John Kirby Sextet, Howard McGhee, Coleman Hawkins, the Andy Kirk Orchestra and Billy Eckstine. Jones’ swing-to-bop style was influenced by Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum and later Bud Powell, and it has been flexible enough not to need to change much through the years.

Jones worked on Jazz at the Philharmonic tours starting in 1947, was Ella Fitzgerald’s accompanist during 1948-53, recorded with Charlie Parker, and for a period in the 1950s was a regular member of Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five. Jones was extremely busy from the late 1940s on, working on radio, on television, in the studios, on a countless number of recordings and with such jazz giants as Benny Goodman, Lester Young and Cannonball Adderley. Even when he was on the staff of CBS during 1959-76, he always found time to play jazz, leading his own trios and performing with virtually every important jazz figure of the past 60 years, including on rare occasions his brothers. He was the pianist with the Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ in the 1970s (playing Fats Waller songs), on an occasional basis recorded with a group called the Great Jazz Trio and has recently recorded duet albums with Joe Lovano and Roberta Gambarini. Hank Jones’ lightly swinging, tasteful and impeccable style is as intact in the early 21st century as it was in the 1950s.