Mitch’s Reflection: Jazz legend Hank Jones dies at 91 in New York City

Hank Jones, pianist and jazz legend, beloved husband of Theodosia, dear uncle to his nieces and nephews across the country, friend to music, inspiration to countless musicians, died May 16, 2010, in New York City, after a brief illness. He was 91 years old and would have been 92 on July 31.
Jones’ longtime manager and Justin Time Records representative Jean-Pierre Leduc says in a news release,”Today we celebrate his spirit, his gift, his joy, his wisdom and his friendship. Hank lived and breathed music, and was never far from a keyboard, even at the end. His incredible burst of productivity these last few years – concerts, recordings, fundraisers, clinics – was unprecedented and truly remarkable.”
Born in 1918 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Hank Jones grew up in Pontiac, MI, the eldest of the acclaimed Jones Family, which included trumpeter, composer and bandleader Thad Jones and drummer Elvin Jones.
Jones started 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 52nd Street, where in 1945 he joined Billy Eckstine’s big band. The following year, he joined Coleman Hawkins, and from 1947-51 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 the CBS studios as staff pianist in 1959, a position which would last for 17 years. Additionally, Jones accompanied Marilyn Monroe as she sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in 1962.
Although the thought of retirement had crossed his mind, at 87, Jones stayed busy playing concerts worldwide, recording and performing at jazz master classes at various schools, such as Harvard University  and New York University. 
Jones’ recent awards include a Congressional Achievement Award, NEA Jazz Master (1989), induction in DownBeat Magazine’s Jazz Hall of Fame (2009), Jazz Journalists Associations Pianist of the Year (2009) and a GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award (2009).
Jones released his most recent album,  Pleased to Meet You, as a co-leader on Justin Time Records in October with label mate pianist Oliver Jones. Before his death, Jones recorded as a guest artist on a duets album with vocalist Hilary Kole, August 10 release on Justin Time. His final recording is an album of duets with bassist Charlie Haden, due out late this year on Universal France.

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