The greatest artists have a way of making us comfortable. We see them, unannounced, come on the stage, and we relax and get ready to be delighted. “This is going to be wonderful!” we think, before the first note has been played. Hank Jones and Milt Hinton and Ruby Braff and Vic Dickenson and another dozen others always evoked that feeling. And Jake Hanna.
Jake lifted up every session with his beautiful sound, his floating, encouraging time, his own delight at being there. But he was so consistently generous that I fear he didn’t get celebrated sufficiently when he was alive. But the musicians knew, and wise listeners did also.
He isn’t with us anymore — to push the band joyously on his hi-hats, to crack wise on the bandstand, to tell long scurrilous hilarious stories off it. But his presence is very much real and alive.
Jake’s niece, Maria Judge, has organized a musical celebration in honor of Jake. It will be held in his hometown, Dorchester, Mass., on August 8 at 2 PM. Musicians who loved Jake and who shared his artistic vision (loosely paraphrased, it went something like: “If you’re not going to swing, what the hell are you doing on the bandstand?”) will be there: Becky Kilgore, Howard Alden, Randy Reinhart, Warren Vache, Harry Allen, Joe Ascione (playing a set of Jake’s drums), and Joel Forbes. Knowing Jake — and how deeply people loved and admired him, there will be a great deal of laughter and swing. I would give anything to be at the back of the hall with my video camera, and hope that someone takes my place.
The Hometown Celebration will take place on Sunday, August 8, beginning at 2 PM, at Florian Hall, 55 Hallet Street, Dorchester, Mass. 02124. Don’t know how to get there? Look-a-here . . . and there’s more information on the brand-new website, http://www.jakehanna.com. My title (and one of my most-used tags)? “Pay attention!” was one of Jake’s favorite phrases. Attention must be paid . . . .