Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Hank Jones: Playing in Depth

Hank Jones in Copenhagen: Live at Jazzhus Slukefter, 1983

In a fascinating passage in his memoir Act One, Moss Hart talks about the ineffable something that great actors have, which some call 'star quality',

"... but among the learned it is more often discussed in terms of 'level of emotion' or 'playing in depth.'"

It's the latter phrase that occurred to me when I considered the long and distinguished career of the pianist Hank Jones. In at the beginning of the bebop revolution, and making music until his death at 91 in 2010, Jones was extremely prolific in the recording studio. He made more than 60 albums as a solo pianist or group leader, and many, many more as a session musician.

William P. Gottlieb's 1947 photo of Milt Orent, Mary Lou Williams, Hank Jones & Dizzy Gillespie in Williams' New York apartment. Library of Congress.

Jones had played with drummer Shelly Manne back in 1962 (on the album 2-3-4, with Coleman Hawkins), and he worked with Manne again in the late 1970s (though most of his trio activity at the time was with the Great Jazz Trio, usually with Ron Carter and Tony Williams). In 1983 Jones and Manne went to Copenhagen to record a live album at the Tivoli Gardens, with Danish bassist Mads Vinding. This Storyville CD is the first ever release in any format for a fine set of just over an hour of classic songs by some of the great jazz composers, among them Bud Powell, Benny Golson and Charlie Parker, as well as great standards.

Mozart talks in one of his letters about a pianist who plays "with taste, feeling, and a brilliant style of playing," and Hank Jones exhibits all three of these. But towards the end of such a distinguished career, it's "playing in depth" that I think sums it up the best.

This disc will be released on April 6, 2018.

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