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Jazz pianist Hank Jones dies

Emma Brown

The legendary pianist Hank Jones, 91, an eloquent and lyrical soloist and accompanist to every major name in jazz since the 1940s, died May 16 in New York City.

Mr. Jones was known for his light touch and his embrace of bebop's fast pace and complex phrasing. He played "as though he were plucking the piano's strings instead of striking its keys, and his gracefully restrained single-note style are a reformulation of their aesthetic in modern jazz.," wrote David Rosenthal in "Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955- 1965." hankjones.jpg

He made his New York debut in 1944 with jazz trumpeter Oran "Hot Lips" Page at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street in New York. He went on to make hundreds of recordings with the likes of Charlie Parker and Ella Fitzgerald, playing venues from nightclubs to Broadway.

Along the way, he was nominated for five Grammy awards before winning a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2009. He also received the National Medal of Arts and the National Endowment of the Arts' Jazz Masters Award.

Jazz critic Howard Mandel called Mr. Jones "a man of experience who embodies the wit, warmth, elegance, swing, sagacity, ongoing productivity and open-minded creativity we hope for from all artists and too rarely find."

"I try to play evenly," Mr. Jones told Mandel in an interview. "I don't take too many excursions, I don't go too far away from the melody, I don't go out in the deep water. I want the listener to understand what I'm doing. I try to stay pretty much right down the middle and yet keep it interesting."

Below, he plays at Carnegie Hall in 1994:

Mr. Jones was a native of Vicksburg, Miss., who grew up in Michigan. His was a musical family -- brothers Thad, a trumpeter, and Elvin, a drummer, also became prominent jazz musicians.

By Emma Brown  |  May 17, 2010; 10:26 AM ET
Categories:  Emma Brown , Musicians  | Tags: hank jones died, hank jones dies, hank jones jazz pianist, hank jones obituary  
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