Michael Hanna & Friends
Baker's Keyboard Lounge
November 9, 2012
In jazz circles, as within most artistic idioms, talent can be generational. The most apparent example of this is the Marsalis clan. Other notable father-son duos include John and Ravi Coltrane, Chico and Arturo O'Farrill, as well as Dewey and Joshua Redman. The latest to delve into the family business is singer Michael Hanna, who is the son of pianist Sir Roland Hanna
. Instead of taking up piano, he steered toward the vocal arts, and it was not his first choice of careers. Hanna, who has loved cars since he was a kid, became an automotive engineer and raised a family in Detroit. However, the call of the stage beckoned, and he developed his talent, paying dues, and singing whenever and wherever he could.
The singer brought his act to Detroit's own "Jazz Corner of The World," Baker's Keyboard Lounge, which still holds the distinction of being the oldest operating jazz joint in the world. Assisting Hanna was a quartet of crack Detroit pros which included reedman Robert Reeves, veteran pianist Phil Lesky
, bassist Kerry Lacy, and drummer Bang Glenn, who warmed up the hometown crowd for Hanna with lively renditions of "Have You Seen Miss Jones" and "Footprints."
Hanna then took a stage which his father had performed on throughout the better part of five decades, and proceeded to hold a vocal clinic, starting off the set with a jaunty rendition of "Moondance." When he jumped off into a lively take on "Night In Tunisia," he got to open up a silky, melodic tenor voice which not only blended right in with the band but also assumed the guise of a fifth instrument. Hanna also traded riffs with the bassist, who was laying down some thick tumbao, then took that smooth tenor down a notch with a moving take on "Come Sunday."
About halfway into the night the music took an ethereal, almost other- worldly turn when Hanna started playing off pianist Phil Lesky and taking his cues from him. Lesky has a prodigious left hand which assumed the lead, with Hanna following suit. This interplay was apparent on this singer's oblique version of "All Blues." Throughout the set he showed his versatility on an eclectic set which also included a sedate walk through "Just One of Those Things," a vocalese homage to Eddie Jefferson
(who was tragically killed outside of Baker's) on "Bennie's From Heaven," and the rarely performed Grady Tate
classic "Sack Full Of Dreams."
Hanna seems to have what it takes to perform this music. Besides having that buttery tenor, he has that sense of timing and rhythm that all great vocalists have. When he quits his day job, he'll have a good replacement.