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Interviews

Hank Jones

By Published: October 27, 2003
AAJ: You like somebody right in the pocket.

HJ: Exactly. When that doesn't happen you can't do anything else. He might be a great soloist, but if he doesn't play good time the whole thing is baseless. The drummer shouldn't play too many [drumming] bombs. He should play interesting things. He can sort of feed the pianist, [and] do things that kind of stimulate the thinking without overshadowing.

AAJ: I've heard some musicians say that the bebop language would be nothing without the rhythmic aspect.

HJ: I agree with that, and it's primarily concerned with the drums and perhaps the bass. You can't play bebop on a horn by yourself, you know. It's effective only if it's done with the rhythm section, so naturally the rhythm plays a big part in that.

AAJ: Not only have you played alongside Parker, and Hawkins and Ben Webster, but you've also recorded with Anthony Braxton [Seven Standards 1985, Magenta-Windham Hill].

HJ: That's right. I was surprised. I didn't know Anthony before the date, and I didn't know anything about his reputation. I didn't know what style of music he played. When I first heard him I thought he sounded quite a bit different from the people that I had been used to playing with; we were playing something in the bebop vein [on that date]. There was a period of adjustment there for about the first hour you know, but we came close, as close as anybody can come to being on the same playing field. I think he did a great job on that album. A lot of people liked it, they were surprised to find that I was playing with him because his style was supposed to be so different than mine, because it is. But I think we managed to come pretty close together on that particular date...That's good for you. See it broadens your whole scope, it's a mind opening experience. It teaches you that there are a lot of things out there that are good to know about and to learn about. It gets you out of your own little small world...It's a mind expanding experience, and that's what I liked about that date.

AAJ: You've been around long enough to see so many different changes going on in the music, different things being pushed under the jazz umbrella in terms of Ornette Coleman and what Coltrane and your brother [Elvin] were doing in the '60s. But it seems to me that you've been pretty consistent with the music you want to play in the style you wanted to play. Were you making conscious choices in regards to that?

HJ: In a sense. But a lot of those things just happened. Whatever style I play is the style that is most compatible for me. I think it varies with each player. Some people don't want to stick to the straight and narrow sort of speak, so they branch out, they want to do something different [but] I always thought that something different is not always necessarily something good. Just being different for the sake of being different is not necessarily a good thing. If it means something, if it's viable, then do it. And I think in my case the things that I have tried to do are viable for me because they're the things that seem right to me. They seem compatible to my particular preferences. Even though my style hasn't remained static, I think it's changed over the years, and that I think falls in line with what I believe in: the things that I think I should be doing, [and] the direction I should be going in. In other words they conform to my train of thought. I've heard a lot of things [that] I don't agree with and therefore I don't want to go in that direction. I think that's true of anybody, any style.


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