Hank Alone

In The New York Times “City Room” blog, Corey Kilgannon and Andy Newman have a strange, poignant followup to the news of Hank Jones’s death. No one who knew Hank will be surprised at the selflessness it portrays or be unmoved by its tale of loneliness.

He stayed active till the very end, collecting a Grammy last year and touring the world. But when he wasn’t on the road, he lived in near isolation in a 12-by-12-foot room at 108th Street and Broadway, ordering in three meals a day from the diner downstairs and practicing incessantly on an electric keyboard plugged into headphones.
“He was worried he would bother the neighbors,” said Mr. Jones’s roommate and landlord, Manny Ramirez. “The neighbors would ask, ‘Why don’t we hear Hank anymore?’ I said, ‘He locks himself in his room all the time.'”

To read the whole thing, go here.

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  1. Ken Dryden says

    The incessant practicing by Hank Jones isn’t surprising. when Eubie Blake appeared on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz near the end of his life, he said he practiced two hours a day, with his wife keeping note of how long he had been at it. If he quit early, Ms. Blake would remind him, “Eubie…you’ve got 15 mintues left.”

  2. says

    Per reader comments, the Times piece on Hank’s lonely end elicited pathos, anger, puzzlement, minor corrections, and more–a lesson perhaps in how careful a writer must be when reporting any story. That Jones was a recluse, living in one room of a larger apartment, 91 and still practicing every night… those details are almost lost in the petty dust-up. I’ll say I loved Hank’s music, marveled at his longevity and (what I perceived as) dry wit. But he did often seem, not just serious, but sad. Missing all the boppers he had known and played with? Missing his brothers (later)? Troubled by the failing popularity of Jazz in the last quarter century? Aw hell, I’m just projecting and dithering like his other fans. I guess I’d rather remember him as Fats Waller in those stage performances of Ain’t Misbehavin’, grinning–wickedly maybe–and ticklin’ the ivories till they cried “Mercy!”

  3. Jon Mathis says

    If you read the article, make sure you also read the comments from Charlie Haden, Hank’s manager, and Hank’s relatives.