Clip: A Jazzman's Final Refuge (Hank Jones)
- Ducking in to post a clip worth sharing. Hank Jones, of the legendary
musician brothers that included Thad and (perhaps my favorite drummer)
Elvin, died this month. In some ways, the NY Times clip below paints
a sad picture of his final days, but I was inspired by his passion for
his music into his nineties. To continue to practice as much as he
did indicates a real love for his craft. His brother Elvin toured in
the advanced stages of heart failure, pretty much dying with his boots
on. What an amazing family.
Anyway, here it is:
May 18, 2010, 1:50 pm
A Jazzman’s Final Refuge
By COREY KILGANNON AND ANDY NEWMAN
Manny Ramirez in Hank Jones’s apartment with one of his records.Corey
Kilgannon/The New York Times Manny Ramirez, Hank Jones’s roommate, in
his old room.
Hank Jones, the legendary jazz pianist, led an oddly bifurcated
existence toward the end of his 91 years on earth.
He stayed active till the very end, collecting a Grammy last year and
touring the world. But when he wasn’t on the road, he lived in near
isolation in a 12-by-12-foot room at 108th Street and Broadway,
ordering in three meals a day from the diner downstairs and practicing
incessantly on an electric keyboard plugged into headphones.
“He was worried he would bother the neighbors,” said Mr. Jones’s
roommate and landlord, Manny Ramirez. “The neighbors would ask, ‘Why
don’t we hear Hank anymore?’ I said, ‘He locks himself in his room all
On Sunday, Mr. Jones died at a hospice in the Bronx, only a few weeks
after returning from Japan.
On Monday night, Mr. Ramirez entered Mr. Jones’s room to begin cleaning it out.
Mr. Jones had left it locked and deadbolted. Mr. Ramirez, 66, took a
hammer and large chisel, bashed a hole in the door, stuck his hand
through and opened it.
He switched on the light and there was the room: suitcases, sheet
music and jazz awards cluttered around an unmade bed. On the cluttered
night-table was a book of Sherlock Holmes stories.
Scattered about were CDs of Debussy, Ravel and Chopin. In the clothes
closets were designer neckties and sharp-looking suits. On one shelf
was a supply of light bulbs. On another were a coffee maker and an
unopened bottle of fine Champagne. Nearby were three large leather
music folders: for piano, bass and drums.
The Yamaha electric piano had a pair of headphones laying on the
keyboard and a music exercise book still on the music stand, along
with one of Mr. Jones’s compositions.
“He would practice while listening to classical music – classical was
his favorite music,” Mr. Ramirez said.
Mr. Ramirez, who would occasionally take Mr. Jones to visit his wife
in an assisted-care facility upstate, said that in general, he was
unable to pull Mr. Jones out of his reclusion.
“I’d say, ‘Come on, Hank, watch some sports with me,’” he recalled.
“But he’d say, ‘Nope, got to practice.’ He was still a perfectionist
at age 91 — 2 or 3 in the morning, it didn’t matter. I wondered, ‘When
does he sleep?’”
Lisa Gersten, who lives in the next apartment, walked in. She too knew
Mr. Jones. Her three daughters would listen to him play from outside
the room. She went and got a photograph of two of her daughters and
Mr. Jones posing with his Grammy award.
“He kept it in a box like a pair of shoes,” said Ms. Gersten.
“It’s been a real New York experience, living next to him,” she added.
“You never know who your neighbors are in this city.” After Mr. Jones
agreed to jam with one of her musician friends, she wrote a note to
him and taped it to his door.
On Monday night the note remained there. It read simply: “Thank You,
Thank You, Thank You.”