July 31st, 1918 in Vicksburg, Mississippi
May 16th, 2010 in New York City
- Nominated for five Grammy Awards between 1977 and 1995, for Bop Redux (1977), I Remember You (1980), and Steal Away (1995)
- NEA Jazz Masters Award – 1989
- American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Jazz Living Legend Award – 2003
- National Medal of Arts – 2008
- Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award - 2009
A Jazz Veteran:
Pianist Hank Jones is one of a few remaining links to jazz’s past. He has recorded countless albums as both a leader and as a sideman, having worked with virtually all of the jazz greats, from Coleman Hawkins and Ella Fitzgerald to Joe Lovano and Christian McBride. Two of his younger brothers, drummer Elvin and trumpeter, arranger, and composer Thad, were two of the most influential musicians in jazz. Hank Jones has been swinging from the days of bebop, and now entering his 90s, he continues.
Jones began studying the piano as a boy, and at age 13 he began accompanying vocalists in Pontiac, Michigan, where he grew up. His father, a Baptist deacon, discouraged his sons' interest in jazz, thinking it was evil. But its draw was strong for the young Hank Jones. He would travel to Detroit to hear concerts, where he first saw Louis Armstrong perform. While playing with local bands, in 1944 Jones met saxophonist Lucky Thompson, who encouraged the young pianist to move to New York City.
Hank Jones’ first gig in New York was with trumpeter and vocalist Hot Lips Page at the Onyx Club in Manhattan. Soon he was playing with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and in singer Billy Eckstine’s big band. The mid-1940s saw the transition from swing to bebop, and Jones shifted his style accordingly. In 1947, he began playing with Jazz at the Philharmonic, produced by Norman Granz, alongside several top bebop musicians. A year later he became Ella Fitzgerald’s pianist, touring with her for over five years, and in 1952, he recorded with Charlie Parker on Now’s the Time (Savoy Jazz).
In the following decades, Jones played with clarinetists Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman, and in 1959, became the staff pianist at CBS Studios, a position he held for 17 years. He expanded his skills from pianist and accompanist to conductor in the late 1970s for the Broadway musical tribute to pianist Fats Waller, Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Since then, Hank Jones continued to grow as a musician, performing and recording with musicians such as Joe Lovano, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Eddie Gomez, Al Foster, Jimmy Cobb, Sonny Stitt, Charlie Haden, and many others. In the last years of his life, he gave concerts and master classes around the world, spreading his talent and love for jazz. He died at age 91 on May 16th, 2010 in New York City.