To hear Hank Jones is to understand why he is one of the rare individuals that the National Endowment for the Arts inducted as a 'Jazz Master'. In over seventy years as a Jazz pianist and composer, his playing style has embodied the essence of mainstream Jazz making him one of the most sought after and recorded Jazz pianist throughout Jazz history.
The eldest surviving member of a prolific Jazz musician family which included the late drummer Elvin Jones and trumpeter/composer Thad Jones, Hank Jones continues the legacy by recording and playing at concerts and festivals around the world. As one of the few surviving Jazz greats photographed in 'A Great Day in Harlem ', he has also participated in other historical events such as accompanying Marilyn Monroe when she sang 'Happy Birthday Mr. President' to the late President John F. Kennedy.
Hank Jones has been recognized by many organizations throughout his career for the many significant contributions to Jazz. Here are just a few of the notable awards and titles conferred upon him:
National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master
The International Jazz Hall of Fame
JazzFest 2002 Jazz Master
Congressional Achievement Award
Living Legend Jazz Wall of Fame : ASCAP
Grammy Nominations for: 'Bop Redux', 'Love for sale' & 'I Remember You'
Jazz Journalist Award
Highlights in Jazz Award
Born in 1918 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Hank Jones grew up in Pontiac , Michigan. Although his father thought playing Jazz at the time was 'evil' Hank start playing in local bands in Michigan, Ohio and Buffalo before moving to New York City in 1943. His first job was with Hot Lips Page at the Onyx Club on 52 nd Street where in1945 he joined Billy Eckstine's big band. The following year he joined Colman Hawkins and from 1947 to 1951 he toured the world with the Jazz at the Philharmonic (JATP) accompanying Ella Fitzgerald. In 1952 he joined Artie Shaw and then worked with Johnny Hodges followed by Tyree Glenn. In 1956 he joined Benny Goodman and joined the CBS studios as staff pianist in 1959, a position which would last for seventeen years.
Throughout his career, Hank Jones has played and recorded with the virtual who's who of Jazz history. With over five hundred albums and CDs recorded and countless concerts, there aren't too many significant names in Jazz that Hank has not played or recorded with. Most recently, he has been involved in recordings and performances with the contemporaries such as Joe Lovano. As Hank reflects on his past, one regret is that he did not record more with his late brothers Thad and Elvin, however, he was able to make his last recording 'The Great Trio Collaboration' on Village Records with Elvin last year before he passed away.
Although the thought of retirement had crossed his mind, at 87, Hank Jones stays busy playing concerts worldwide, recording and performing at Jazz Master classes in Universities such as Harvard and NYU. Recently featured on the cover of the June 2005 issue of Downbeat magazine, the world is recognizing that Hank Jones is one of the last surviving Jazz greats that helped to forge this great musical genre called Jazz. Always the consummate professional, Hank Jones has lived his life and career honoring the musical genre of Jazz and he is now recognized around the world as one of the true great Jazz Masters.