The relationship between pianists Debbie Poryes and Hank Jones would appear to be somewhat tenuous. But that did not stop the San Francisco based pianist from offering a tribute to the late, great, lyrical and impeccable master of the keyboard, under the album title Loving Hank.
Apart from a period in the 1980s, when Poryes made The Netherlands her home base while she taught and played in that country along with several other European venues, Debbie has pretty much confined herself to the West Coast and Northern California in particular. She has developed a very individualistic approach to her piano playing, but it is informed in style by such luminaries as Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Tommy Flanagan and—not unsurprisingly - Hank Jones.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Hank Jones ( there really can't be all that many), he was one of seven children and raised in Pontiac Michigan. Two of his brothers also became well-known jazz musicians, Thad a superb trumpeter and band leader, and Elvin a prodigious drummer. Hank started recording as early as 1947 and played with his own trio along with many other formations. He can be heard on such diverse recordings as Opus De Jazz (1956) with Milt Jackson, I Just Dropped By To Say Hello(1963) with Johnny Hartman and with his own trio on For My Father(2004). Jones died on May 16,2010 at 91.
Poyres starts off this session with one of her own compositions and the title track "Loving Hank". This is a looming exploratory number with deep harmonies and close-packed chords. Erik Jekabson provides some jagged interventions on flugelhorn. Something more conventional is the Burton Lane tune "How About You" which was launched in the 1941 film Babes On Broadway starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. There is a long oblique introduction by Poyres before stating the melody and that receives only a fleeting mention. The balance of the number is an improvisation full of twists and turns. Bassist Peter Barshay then adds his voice before Poyres picks up the melody for a reprise.
As the album spins itself out, Poyres' own compositions such as " Phrases Of The Moon". "The Wish" or "Our Star" are well-executed and pleasantly reassuring, but hardly life altering. On the covers such as Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" or Vernon Duke's "Autumn In New York" Poyres proves to be an impressive pianist with a probing flair.
On the whole, this is a very sympathetic 'shout out' to one of jazz's treasures.