Pianist Hank Jones tapped to inspire Oakland Univ. grads - Jazz musician's advice to be succinct and straightforward

5:40 PM, Apr 27, 2007   |    comments
  • File image.
    
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

Legend. Luminary. These adjectives are perhaps overused, or inadequate, to describe master jazz pianist Hank Jones. Jazz aficionados know Jones as a noble man and consummate pianist, with a career that has spanned more than 50 years. In conversation, he is kind and forthright. Oakland University's Class of 2007 likely will delight in the latter when Jones speaks at the May 5 commencement ceremony and receive an honorary doctorate of humanities. As commencement season begins this weekend, luminaries from the worlds of business, politics and entertainment will come to the state to inspire Michigan's college graduates. And, in some cases, pick up honorary degrees. Jones, who grew up in Pontiac, said he looks forward to returning to Detroit for the first time in five years. "I just feel a certain nostalgic feeling about things like this," he said Thursday from his home in New York. "And, it's an honor to receive this award." Jones began his career in the 1940s. The oldest of the famed Jones brothers - cornetist and composer Thad and drummer Elvin - he has recorded and performed with Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Andy Kirk, Billy Eckstine and Milt Jackson. He also toured with Ella Fitzgerald in 1948-53. Jones was nominated for the honorary degree by Oakland's David Daniels, emeritus professor of music, and endorsed by the jazz faculty. University officials said Jones warned them he would keep his remarks to the students brief. "I think they should know they have to take the ball and carry it from here on," he said, adding that Oakland students should be concerned about issues like the environment and health care. "There are lots of challenges out there ... and they should be prepared to face up to it." Now 88, Jones still practices regularly. He released an album last year, "Hank & Frank," and plans to continue to perform despite triple heart bypass surgery a few months ago. This trip - his first since the surgery - will follow his return to the stage, as well. He said he is scheduled to perform with trumpeter Roy Hargrove's Big Band in Chicago just before he comes to Detroit. Musically, Jones insists, there are things he has yet to do. "I just want to do it better ... go for perfection," he said. "It's a goal that's probably impossible to reach, but I'm going to try." Contact NAOMI R. PATTON at 313-223-4485 or npatton@freepress.com. Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.

By Naomi R. Patton, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Most Watched Videos