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Jazz in the family

June 22, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -Music lovers will be treated to a free concert Saturday evening featuring two men who are members of famous jazz families.

Pianist Hank Jones and saxophonist Jimmy Heath will be honored and will perform at the fifth annual Don Redman Heritage Awards & Concert at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Both Heath and Jones were members of families with brothers in jazz, says Todd Bolton, supervisory park ranger and organizer for the concert.

Neither Heath's nor Jones' parents were professional musicians, but their homes were filled with live and recorded music, they say.

Heath's mother sang in the Baptist church's choir, and his father played clarinet in a marching band for fun. Jones' mother played piano, and his father played guitar.


While Olivvia Jones was partial to jazz, Henry Jones didn't care for jazz, particularly it being played on Sundays or in church, Hank Jones says of his parents.

Jones, 87, of Hartwick, N.Y., says there's nothing inherently evil about jazz. The genre was just guilty by association because it was the type of music played in houses of ill repute.

"I think he approved of the career in a way, sort of a reserved way. He recognized (jazz) as a fact of life as far as I was concerned," Jones says of his father.

Jones also was influenced by listening to records of jazz pianists Duke Ellington and Earl Hines.

Heath, 79, of Corona, N.Y., chose to learn alto saxophone after listening to big bands such as those led by alto saxophonists Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges.

Heath performed with his brothers Percy and Albert "Tootie" Heath on and off from 1975 until Percy's death in 2005.

Jones says he did some recordings with his brothers, the late Thad and Elvin Jones, but they never toured together.

Both men will be honored with Don Redman Heritage Awards for contributions to jazz. Redman (1900-64) was considered the first great jazz arranger and is one of Storer College's most successful graduates. The college is part of the national park and was one of the first schools formed after the Civil War to educate freed slaves.

Jones is modest about his own contributions to jazz.

"In terms of the bebop, he was one of the earliest pianists to adapt and adopt and then advance what had been established by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. He took a new art form and elevated it in his own way that set a standard for other pianists," Bolton says.

Heath has a reputation as a brilliant instrumentalist, composer and arranger and has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis.

Both men are still active in the music scene.

Heath is working on a big-band record, which features mostly his original compositions and is expected to be released in September. This week he was scheduled to perform at the Blue Note in New York City with the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni Big Band.

He got to see Jones in action last week at the JVC Jazz Festival in New York City.

"He was wonderful the other night," says Heath, who has performed with Jones.

Jones has been touring, including performances with singer Roberta Gambarini, whom he considers the most talented jazz singer to come along in the last 50 years.

He considers himself a learning musician.

"Every time I step out on stage or a performance, it's a learning experience for me," Jones says.

If you go...

WHAT: Fifth annual Don Redman Heritage Awards & Concert featuring pianist Hank Jones and saxophonist Jimmy Heath with the Howard Burns Quartet

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday, June 24

WHERE: On the lawn of the Mather Training Center, on the campus of Storer College, Fillmore Street, Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

COST: Free admission; cost for rides, games and food

DIRECTIONS: From Hagerstown, take Alternate U.S. 40 south through Boonsboro. Turn right on Md. 67 south. Take U.S. 340 west toward Charles Town, W.Va. Cross the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and go into Harpers Ferry, W.Va. From U.S. 340, turn right on Union Street. Then turn right on Washington Street. Turn right on Storer College Place. A park ranger will direct people to free parking.

MORE: Seating will be provided, but concertgoers are welcome to bring lawn chairs and blankets. If it rains, there will be covered seating. Soft drinks and bottled water will be available for purchase. For information, call 1-304-535-6298 or go to on the Web.

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