Henry Jones Jr. (July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010), best known as Hank Jones, was an American jazz pianist, bandleader, arranger, and composer. Critics and musicians described Jones as eloquent, lyrical, and impeccable. In 1989, The National Endowment for the Arts honored him with the NEA Jazz Masters Award. He was also honored in 2003 with the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) Jazz Living Legend Award. In 2008, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. On April 13, 2009, the University of Hartford presented Jones with an honorary Doctorate of Music for his musical accomplishments.
Jones recorded more than 60 albums under his own name, and countless others as a sideman, including Cannonball Adderley‘s celebrated album Somethin’ Else. On May 19, 1962, he played piano as actress Marilyn Monroe sang her famous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” song to then U.S. president John F. Kennedy.
Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Henry “Hank” Jones moved to Pontiac, Michigan, where his father, Henry Jones Sr. a Baptist deacon and lumber inspector, bought a three-story brick home. One of seven children, Jones was raised in a musical family. His mother Olivia Jones sang; his two older sisters studied piano; and his two younger brothers—Thad, a trumpeter, and Elvin, a drummer—also became prominent jazz musicians. He studied piano at an early age and came under the influence of Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, and Art Tatum. By the age of 13 Jones was performing locally in Michigan and Ohio. While playing with territory bands in Grand Rapids and Lansing in 1944 he met Lucky Thompson, who invited Jones to work in New York City at the Onyx Club with Hot Lips Page.