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one of my favourite musicians of all time. rest in peace.
i wonder how many people even have any idea of who he was or how great a pianist he was. we have lost another great one and i sure as hell don't mean ronnie james dio. just my opinion.
may god bless his soul.
a loss for us but 91 and still playing -- a life well lived.
one of the most tasty players that ever lived.  he put so much music out there, man, what a player.
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one of best concerts i heard was him and tommy flanagan on two grands playing together.
n.y. times

hank jones, versatile jazz pianist, is dead at 91
by peter keepnews

hank jones, whose self-effacing nature belied his stature as one of the most respected jazz pianists of the postwar era, died on sunday in the bronx. he was 91.  

his death, at calvary hospital hospice, was announced by his longtime manager, jean-pierre leduc. mr. jones lived on the upper west side of manhattan and also had a home in hartwick, n.y.  

mr. jones spent much of his career in the background. for three and a half decades he was primarily a sideman, most notably with ella fitzgerald; for much of that time he also worked as a studio musician on radio and television.  

his fellow musicians admired his imagination, his versatility and his distinctive style, which blended the urbanity and rhythmic drive of the harlem stride pianists, the dexterity of art tatum and the harmonic daring of bebop. (the pianist, composer and conductor andré previn once called mr. jones his favorite pianist, “regardless of idiom.”)  

but unlike his younger brothers thad, who played trumpet with count basie and was later a co-leader of a celebrated big band, and elvin, an influential drummer who formed a successful combo after six years with john coltrane’s innovative quartet, hank jones seemed content for many years to keep a low profile.  

that started changing around the time he turned 60. riding a wave of renewed interest in jazz piano that also transformed his close friend and occasional duet partner tommy flanagan from a perpetual sideman to a popular nightclub headliner, mr. jones began working and recording regularly under his own name.  

reviewing a nightclub appearance in 1989, peter watrous of the new york times praised mr. jones as “an extraordinary musician” whose playing “resonates with jazz history” and who “embodies the idea of grace under pressure, where assurance and relaxation mask nearly impossible improvisations.”  

mr. jones further enhanced his reputation in the 1990s with a striking series of recordings that placed his piano in a range of contexts — including an album with a string quartet, a collaboration with a group of west african musicians and a duet recital with the bassist charlie haden devoted to spirituals and hymns.  

henry w. jones jr. was born in vicksburg, miss., on july 31, 1918. one of 10 children, he grew up in pontiac, mich., near detroit, where he started studying piano at an early age and first performed professionally at 13. he began playing jazz even though his father, a baptist deacon, disapproved.  

mr. jones worked with regional bands, mostly in michigan and ohio, before moving to new york in 1944 to join the trumpeter and singer hot lips page’s group at the onyx club on 52nd street.  

he was soon in great demand, working for well-known performers like the saxophonist coleman hawkins and the singer billy eckstine. “people heard me and said, ‘well, this is not just a boy from the country — maybe he knows a few chords,’ ” he told ben waltzer in a 2001 interview for the times. he abandoned the freelance life in late 1947 to become ella fitzgerald’s accompanist and held that job until 1953, occasionally taking time out to record with charlie parker and others.  

he kept busy after leaving fitzgerald. among other activities, he began an association with benny goodman that would last into the 1970s, and he was a member of the last group goodman’s swing-era rival artie shaw led before retiring in 1954. but financial security beckoned, and in 1959 he became a staff musician at cbs. he also participated in a celebrated moment in presidential history when he accompanied marilyn monroe as she sang “happy birthday” to president john f. kennedy, who was about to turn 45, during a democratic party fund-raiser at madison square garden in may 1962.  

mr. jones remained intermittently involved in jazz during his long tenure at cbs, which ended when the network disbanded its music department in the mid-’70s. he was a charter member of the big band formed by his brother thad and the drummer mel lewis in 1966, and he recorded a few albums as a leader. more often, however, he was heard but not seen on “the ed sullivan show” and other television and radio programs.  

“most of the time during those 15 or so years, i wasn’t playing the kind of music i’d prefer to play,” mr. jones told howard mandel of down beat magazine in 1994. “it may have slowed me down a bit. i would have been a lot further down the road to where i want to be musically had i not worked at cbs.” but, he explained, the work gave him “an economic base for trying to build something.”  

once free of his cbs obligations, mr. jones began quietly making a place for himself in the jazz limelight. he teamed with the bassist ron carter and the drummer tony williams, alumni of the miles davis quintet, to form the great jazz trio in 1976. (the uncharacteristically immodest name of the group, which changed bassists and drummers frequently over the years, was not mr. jones’s idea.)  

two years later he began a long run as the musical director and onstage pianist for “ain’t misbehavin’,” the broadway revue built around the music of fats waller, while also playing late-night solo sets at the cafe ziegfeld in midtown manhattan.  

by the 1980s, mr. jones’s late-blooming career as a band leader was in full swing. while he had always recorded prolifically — by one estimate he can be heard on more than a thousand albums — for the first time he concentrated on recording under his own name, which he continued to do well into the 21st century.  

he is survived by his wife, theodosia.  

mr. jones was named a national endowment for the arts jazz master in 1989. he received the national medal of arts in 2008 and a lifetime achievement grammy award in 2009. and he continued working almost to the end. laurel gross, a close friend, said he had toured japan in february and had plans for a european tour this spring until doctors advised against it.  

reaching for superlatives, critics often wrote that mr. jones had an exceptional touch. he himself was not so sure.  

“i never tried consciously to develop a ‘touch,’ ” he told the detroit free press in 1997. “what i tried to do was make whatever lines i played flow evenly and fully and as smoothly as possible.  

“i think the way you practice has a lot to do with it,” he explained. “if you practice scales religiously and practice each note firmly with equal strength, certainly you’ll develop a certain smoothness. i used to practice a lot. i still do when i’m at home.” mr. jones was 78 years old at the time.

may 18, 2010,
a jazzman’s final refuge
corey kilgannon/the new york times

he stayed active till the very end, collecting a grammy last year and touring the world. but when he wasn’t on the road, he lived in near isolation in a 12-by-12-foot room at 108th street and broadway, ordering in three meals a day from the diner downstairs and practicing incessantly on an electric keyboard plugged into headphones.

“he was worried he would bother the neighbors,” said mr. jones’s roommate and landlord, manny ramirez. “the neighbors would ask, ‘why don’t we hear hank anymore?’ i said, ‘he locks himself in his room all the time.’”

on sunday, mr. jones died at a hospice in the bronx, only a few weeks after returning from japan.

on monday night, mr. ramirez entered mr. jones’s room to begin cleaning it out.  
mr. jones had left it locked and deadbolted. mr. ramirez, 66, took a hammer and large chisel, bashed a hole in the door, stuck his hand through and opened it.

he switched on the light and there was the room: suitcases, sheet music and jazz awards cluttered around an unmade bed. on the cluttered night-table was a book of sherlock holmes stories.

scattered about were cds of debussy, ravel and chopin. in the clothes closets were designer neckties and sharp-looking suits. on one shelf was a supply of light bulbs. on another were a coffee maker and an unopened bottle of fine champagne. nearby were three large leather music folders: for piano, bass and drums.

the yamaha electric piano had a pair of headphones laying on the keyboard and a music exercise book still on the music stand, along with one of mr. jones’s compositions.

“he would practice while listening to classical music – classical was his favorite music,” mr. ramirez said.

mr. ramirez, who would occasionally take mr. jones to visit his wife in an assisted-care facility upstate, said that in general, he was unable to pull mr. jones out of his reclusion.  

“i’d say, ‘come on, hank, watch some sports with me,’” he recalled. “but he’d say, ‘nope, got to practice.’ he was still a perfectionist at age 91 — 2 or 3 in the morning, it didn’t matter. i wondered, ‘when does he sleep?’”

lisa gersten, who lives in the next apartment, walked in. she too knew mr. jones. her three daughters would listen to him play from outside the room. she went and got a photograph of two of her daughters and mr. jones posing with his grammy award.

“he kept it in a box like a pair of shoes,” said ms. gersten.

“it’s been a real new york experience, living next to him,” she added. “you never know who your neighbors are in this city.” after mr. jones agreed to jam with one of her musician friends, she wrote a note to him and taped it to his door.

on monday night the note remained there. it read simply: “thank you, thank you, thank you.”
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