well tempered

For all that he was loved, Hank Jones was somehow still undervalued in jazz, probably because he was not an innovator like Bud Powell or Monk or Cecil Taylor; nor was he in the forefront of any style, a Teddy Wilson, a Herbie Hancock.

But he was the go-to piano player when taste and intelligence, grace and wisdom were required. On two of my favorite jazz albums, Jones is half the show – the morning song of duets with bassist Charlie Haden, Steal Away, and even better, the stunning You Are There with singer Roberta Gambarini.  

Listening to Jones in a 2005 interview with Terry Gross, I was struck by how much he sounded like his music – the kind of man who is very, very smart, but who is a doer, not a thinker. There was nothing affected about his answers; they were sophisticated without showing off.

He talked about Art Tatum and Monk and his brothers. Best of all, he said this about his occupation: “You have to be on good speaking terms with the piano, or the piano will rebuff you.”  Yes.


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