While many jazz figures appropriated royal designations, Hanna's 'Sir' was the real deal, having been knighted by Liberia in 1970, and his performance on this memorable night clearly shows a player who deserves a spot in any pantheon of jazz royalty. Hanna came to jazz with extensive classical training at Eastman and Julliard, and that background was always reflected in a quality of elegance he brought to every performance, including each of these eleven tracks. The program opens and closes on Flanagan compositions ("Sea Changes" and "Delarna," respectively) and is filled with standards and favorites from Flanagan programs over the years. In paying tribute to his hometown friend, whose work is said to have inspired Hanna himself to enter the jazz scene, Hanna makes no real effort, beyond song selection, to be imitative, but Hanna's style was so well developed and so distinctive that such an effort would doubtless have been fruitless. Instead, he simply plays some of his friend's favorite music as well as he can, and in the process creates one of the finest solo piano albums of recent years.
This is the kind of album that makes me glad, in a way, that I don't play the piano. If I did, I'm sure I'd feel compelled to spend hour after hour studying the performances. Instead, I'm free to spend hour after hour enjoying them, which I'm sure I will, year after year, and I'm sure you will, too.