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John H. Armwood Jazz History Lecture Nashville's Cheekwood Arts Center 1989

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Farewell to Hank Jones

A Farewell to Hank Jones

He didn't get the fanfare common to pop artists, but the legendary pianist drew heartfelt tributes from his fellow jazz masters at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church.

The dimension and feeling of jazz were perfectly realized during a recent Saturday-afternoon memorial held in Harlem for pianist Hank Jones, who had died at 91. Television cameras and radio microphones were not there to create the glaring atmosphere surrounding pop music these days, whether performed by instrumentalists or singers or those others incapable of entry into the aesthetic world where notes are mastered and used.

Hank Jones was not a pop musician, however long he had co-existed with the various show-business trends designed purely for commercial success. Jones was highly regarded for many years by all who knew how good his music was. He could always be counted on for the inventive quality and sweep of his piano playing, his spontaneously astute accompaniment and the witty verve of his subtle arrangements for small ensembles. Fellow musicians, progeny and committed listeners were right there, bearing witness to the lifelong devotion Jones showed to an aesthetic embodied and defined by persistent, personal elegance.

That Saturday afternoon in Harlem at Abyssinian Baptist Church was the summation of how much is actually going on in the jazz world. That world, contrary to cynical or irresponsible reports, is neither mortally wounded nor in shambles, melting away in the darkness of neglect and disinterest. That gradual disappearance is true only for those caught judging reality solely through publicity and mass media attention. More...

I wrote about the passing of Hank Jones in an earlier post.

John H. Armwood

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