Recorded in June 2002, Sir Roland Hanna’s solo piano tribute to the memory of Tommy Flanagan brings a message of love. They both came up through Detroit, and they shared similar career paths. Good friends, one had served as Ella Fitzgerald’s music director, while the other accompanied Sarah Vaughan as her musical director. Hanna recorded this tribute to his old friend, who had passed away on November 16, 2001. Several months after this recording had been finished, however, Hanna became ill from a viral infection of the heart, and passed away on November 13, 2002. This tragic coincidence leaves us with a farewell tribute to both piano giants.
Hanna expresses lyrical ballads with effortless ease. His motions flow smoothly, and his use of rich harmonic textures places each piece on a pedestal. The pianist’s walking keyboard rhythms annotate the performance with swing. The variety that he attaches to this set of well-known standards gives the performance a lift.
Two of Flanagan’s compositions are represented, to open and close the session. Both pieces exhibit serenity and deep feeling. Hanna interprets them with passion, slowly and deliberately. His agile fingers turn the keys over with a vocal-like presence. Lyricism reigns throughout this fine tribute, as it did throughout two fruitful and unforgettable careers.