The Jazzcat

Hank Jones our National Treasure at the Fowler Museum at UCLA

by on Feb.27, 2008, under News


Slide Show
The Friends of Jazz Organization have come together along

with radio station 88.1 fm KKJZ.Org and Keyboard Concepts to sponsor this

wonderful jazz salon in honor of a man known in this town at the best friend of

jazz, David Abell, tonight presenting the piano great Hank Jones.


This is the first time that I have had the opportunity to

experience music here at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Tonight, the word

experience is especially prevalent because Hank Jones, a true national treasure

who represents every essence of the word, will perform with his wonderful trio

of John Clayton on bass and Joe Labarbera on drums. If I yelled out loud, “Can

I get a witness”, everyone in the place would reply a thunderous, “Amen’.


Many folks came together to make this salon happen and

proceeds from tonight’s performance go toward contributions to help jazz

students at UCLA. Two other major cats that have been producing jazz music for

over six decades Gerald Wilson and Kenny Burrell along with Hank are all from

the motor city of Detroit

and are all in attendance.


Hank and Kenny have known each other since childhood and

Kenny remembers how many of the cats in the neighborhood looked up to Hank and

his brothers as they were all coming up and learning the music. Later this year

both Gerald Wilson and Hank Jones will be honored in celebration of their 90th



Photo by

Friends of jazz are exactly who are in the house tonight. I

feel like George Clooney up in here because I know so many of these patrons of

jazz personally and I can tell you for a fact that these people support,

respect, adore, admire and understand what it takes to love this music let

alone perform it and make it you life. 89 is a serious number when it comes to

years on this earth and Hank has fought off health battles as well as the

rigors of age, the road and the business to be here in this moment smiling,

delighting and creating a lifetime of melody!


I spoke with Hank shortly after his return home from a

little health stint a few months back with heart problems. He sounded as strong

as he looks today and his internal metronome is allowing him to play



There is lots of room to play in trio settings and Hang is

as versatile as he glides and swims through the arrangements of such familiar

tunes as “Body & Soul”, “Star Eyes”, “What is This Thing Called Love”,

“Autumn Leaves”, “Bluesette”, “But Beautiful”, “Stella by Starlight” and Joe

Henderson’s classic “Recorda Me”.  So romantic,

so lyrical and the old school rules the swing!  It is evident that the lush beauty of the

standards has been some of the most wonderful material for Hank over the years.


Tonight is an evening of standards and even though we all

know the music so well, when you listen to the facility of the personal

approach, the way that the melodies and rhythm are crafted with such timing,

precision and effortless mastery, you begin to understand the essence and

nature of a time that existed when these tunes were composed.  There is so much dance in the music and the

delight that exists in the air is evidence of the heart warming and heart felt

sound that these three elements provide.


Just like old school, Hank introduces each tune and there is

the excited anticipation from the audience as to how the trio is going to lay

out the sound for us.  John Clayton has

his eyes glued on Hank for most of the performance.  He is feeding off of the energy, soul and

spirit of the man while sweetly accompanying and soloing with such tenacity

that you can visualize the lovely scenic imagery as he plays. The exchanges are

so special and represent a blend of love and humanity that is entrenched in the

music. Joe Labarbera is swinging and smiling as he provides just the right

touch and feel for the occasion; deep down in the serious pocket with lots of

air and space left for everyone’s imagination.

image imageimage

Hank is feeling the music, as his expressions during and

after playing a tune are so beautiful. Witnessing the smile of a man who is

happy, loving life and the music, makes us all feel ever the more blessed to be

here and have our lives enhanced by that love. Precision and execution are so

pristine; you really can breathe and experience the classical essence of jazz

performed at its finest. For humor and character, Hank tosses in a little

“Eleanor Ruby” riff that I am sure Paul McCartney would appreciate. Our hearts

are all waltzing in three quarter time!


After the intermission, pianist Mike Melvoin conducts a one

on one interview with Hank. Hank has a wonderful sense of humor which he

displayed with much charm as he and Mike had their conversations. Here are some

of the answers and the Hank Jones outlook on life and the music…


a.       Respect

what the composer had in mind and play the melody first before improvising on

the composition

b.      Focus

on the music weather there is a singer or not. Don’t get in the way of the

continuity of thought from the soloist.


c.       There

must have been something in the Detroit

water to breed such pianists as Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan and he took a few

sips too!


d.      His

parents believed in the talent and worked hard to provide the best that they

could for the Jones family


e.       Hanks

parents had thousands of records and a player piano which shaped his approach

to the music. Teddy Wilson, Earl ‘Father’ Hines, Fats Waller etc.



Worked with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw and learned

from the two different styles of band leading

g.       Influenced

by a prodigy sister who was playing concerts at age twelve before a fatal

accident on thin ice



Shortly after the interview, Hank was presented with an

award from the Friends of Jazz!


There are lots of singers in the house and you know that

they would just love to be accompanied by such a stellar rhythm section. One

singer that Hank has been working quite bit with lately is the Italian

sensation Roberta Gambarini. She got up and took “My Romance” and “Skylark” to

those gorgeous places of sweetness in the music! A wonderful evening from a

National Treasure, Hank Jones, the beauty of a man, his dedication and

extraordinary contribution to the art form.


LeRoy Downs

Leave a Reply

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...