Life & Death: Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell, and Luther Henderson

On Sunday, July 31st, pianist Hank Jones will celebrate his 87th birthday, just shy of one year for each key on the piano. Hank was born in Vicksburg, MS on July, 31, 1918, and NPR’s Jazz Profiles, hosted by Nancy Wilson, is celebrating. Check the NPR web site to see when the program airs near you and check out the audio clips of pianists Sir Roland Hanna and Billy Taylor talking about Jones’ personal approach to the piano, and Hank’s own reminiscences of listening to Fats Waller on the radio, watching Art Tatum practice, working on The Ed Sullivan Show, and constantly striving for excellence.

Last month Bookish Gardener heard Hank Jones on a different NPR program (Terry Gross’ Fresh Air – archived here) and wrote:

Disciplined and devout in how he lives, thoughtful and inventive in how he plays—Hank Jones is simply inspiring.

July 31st is also guitarist Kenny Burrell’s birthday — born in Detroit, MI in 1931, he will be 74. A prolific recording artist and composer, Kenny is also the Director of the Jazz Studies Program at UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology His UCLA faculty bio is here and the bio on the Verve Music Group web site is here.

Coincidently, both Hank and Kenny are on my Luther Henderson interview list. Kenny and Luther shared a love of all things Ellington. Hank and Luther both loved Fats Waller, and it was Hank who replaced Luther as the on-stage pianist for Ain’t Misbehavin’ on Broadway. Tomorrow, July 29th, is the second anniversary of Luther’s death.