Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hank Jones, 88

Via Riff Tides, a celebration and homages. Jones is an example of a kind of elegance that is, I feel, routinely ignored outside of black communities, apart from a few exceptions such as Duke Ellington.

"One time we got into the train station and there was a driveway next to the path when you walked by the station. We had our bags lined up on the sidewalk next to the tracks and some guy with a truck came along and ran over our bags."

Jones' eyes grow large and fill with fire.

"We just had to take that stuff. What are you going to do? You were in the deep South, and all they wanted was an excuse to beat you or lynch you. If I had been like some guys -- hot-tempered -- I might have gotten killed."
"After [Art Tatum's] last set, we'd go hang out at some restaurant or private home and play until daylight," says Jones. "I sat right next to him. Or next to the case of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Nobody could get between him and his beer.

"I'd watch his hands, but you couldn't learn very much from watching because his hands moved so fast. You'd listen to the harmony and what he was playing and you began to hear certain things and after a while you recognized what he was doing and then why he was doing it, which was more important."
"Even today, I don't think I'm a full-fledged bop player," he says. "When I'm improvising in that vein, I'm reaching out for it. I'm trying to capture the essence of it."
"When we played New York, every great pianist from George Shearing to Kenny Barron would come in," says [drummer Dennis] Mackrel. "Hank was very subtle, but when someone of a high caliber came in, he'd get more advanced harmonically or rhythmically. It would always go up a notch. Not to say, 'Look at me,' but just to let them know he was still the cat."

Reading stuff like his account of an Ahmad Jamal & Belmondo/Yusef Lateef double-bill, makes me wish I could write like Samizdjazz. He's one of the best young jazz writers around. I'll keep on trying.