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Hank Jones Plays the Pabst Theatre

Hank Jones Quartet Hank Jones Quartet Morrice Blackwell
Despite being in his 80s, master jazz pianist Hank Jones displayed the endurance of a young lion. Two sets of music amounted to roughly three hours of the straight-ahead jazz for which Hank Jones has come to be known. I have attended other jazz shows at this venue that offered only half as much music. The length of the sets, with so many different tunes, made one realize the wealth of knowledge and library of music someone with Jones’ experience and stature has to draw on. To set the tone, he began both sets with tunes by Charlie Parker. To kick off the evening, he opened with "Scrapple From the Apple". Right from the start the band sounded clean and crisp. Needing no time to warm up, they hit notes with precision and feeling.

To give you an indication of the breadth of music covered this evening, Jones play three Thelonious Monk compositions, and two from each of the following composers: his late brother Thad, including the selection "A Child Is Born"; J.J. Johnson, including "Interlude"; and, as previously mentioned, Bird. The Monk tunes were really fabulous. He played "’Round Midnight" about as good as I have ever heard anyone play it. "Blue Monk" displayed the playful and interactive nature of the quartet. Other notable selections included Interface, the only original Mr. Jones played all evening, Miles’ bluesy Walkin’, and standards Stella By Starlight and On Green Dolphin Street. After playing two extended sets, he came back out for more. This was a bit surprising considering he didn’t get the applause he deserved. However, he didn’t let this faze him. He was having fun and didn’t want to stop. His two-tune encore ended with one of my personal favorites, Speak Low. The amazing thing is he looked like he was ready to play a third encore and I believe he would have if only the audience would have been more receptive and appreciative. Unfortunately, some left before the end of the second set and others after the first encore, leaving a relatively small crowd to encourage him on.

Hank Jones was eloquent this evening, as if his fingers were dancing on the keys. What struck me most were the little things he did, the little runs and phrases at the end of his solos or ornately placed elsewhere. George Mraz was, at times, mesmerizing. He did some nice solos during the first set but in the second set he really let loose, playing chords and sliding up and down the bass, making it look so easy and sound so good. Drummer Dennis Mackrel was right on all night. Using brushes much of the night, he held a clinic on how soft spoken and subtle a drummer can be. Jesse Davis, on alto sax, rounded out this fine quartet. Like the other members, his playing was empathetic to what the other musicians were doing. A soulful musician, his alto playing soared and pierced through this evening of classic jazz.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Hank Jones Quartet
  • Concert Date: 4/13/2002
  • Subtitle: Jazz Legend Puts on Marathon Show
  • Venue: Pabst Theatre
  • City State Country: Milwaukee, WI, USA
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