Hank Jones

Walt Mundkowsky

[May 2010.]

Pianist Hank Jones passed away on May 16, 2010, aged 91. Here’s the NYTimes obit. I wrote this brief review of Steal Away shortly after its release (April 4, 1995).

Cover of Verve VRV 314 527 249-2

Charlie HADEN / Hank JONES: Steal Away (rec. 6-29, 30-94). Haden (bs), Jones (pno). Verve VRV 314 527 249-2 (http://www.vervemusicgroup.com/).

Subtitled Spirituals, Hymns and Folk Songs, this tradition-steeped duet album should touch every jazz and blues listener.

Hank Jones (b. 1918 and older brother of trumpeter Thad and drummer Elvin) is credited with founding the Detroit school of jazz piano (Tommy Flanagan, et al.). His economical and subtle inlay work makes him a splendid accompanist (for Ella Fitzgerald in the late 1940s, and many others). The last decades have thankfully brought increased solo opportunities. Charlie Haden may have come to prominence as a Free Jazz bassist, but he clearly feels this music deeply. (He organized this session after hearing Jones’ rendition of “It’s Me, O Lord [Standin’ in the Need of Prayer].”)

The contents are exactly what one might have chosen, except for Haden’s own Spiritual and the folk song “L’Amour de Moy” (in deference to the Montréal recording venue?). Picking favorites would be offensive — taste and conviction shine from every bar — but the closing hymn medley, “Abide With Me” to “Amazing Grace,” caps a performance of generous impulse and moving affirmation. In any event, this would have been a record of indispensable source materials; Jones and Haden offer a prime experience. Authoritative notes and appealingly warm sound.