I was very fortunate to have arrived at Sunnie Sutton’s Rocky Mountain Jazz Party a day early — and met the absolutely irreplaceable Jake Hanna before any of his more famous jazz friends had arrived.  He didn’t know anything about me except that I could tell him where to get his prized King of Shaves shaving cream, but for an hour or so he adopted me — I am a good listener and I find many things amusing.  So he regaled me with an apparently inexhaustible stream of hilarious anecdotes about the famous and the infamous.  Jake was a character in the deepest senses of the word, and a born raconteur.  He did all the voices, had a wonderfully mobile face, and became the person he was depicting.  It was a magical experience, and my only regret is that I didn’t have a notebook or a video recorder.  But what follows is the next best thing: a loving panorama of the man, his voice, his sense of humor, and his swing.  “Start swinging from the beginning!” he always said:

From Maria Judge, Jake’s niece: 

We are collecting Jake Hanna stories, pictures, memories and anecdotes for a book to be published on April 4, 2011, on what would have been Jake’s 80th birthday. If It Didn’t Swing It Wasn’t Jake: Friends, Fans and Family Remember Jake Hanna will be a wonderful way to preserve his memory, his music and his marvelous wit.

We know you must have a favorite memory or anecdote about Jake. It could be a first-hand experience, a third-hand experience, a story he told, a story you heard, one of his many jokes, a picture, an apocryphal tale … Whatever you have, please share it for publication. If you think someone else already sent it in, send it anyway.

Send them to Maria Judge:

By email:

Snail mail:

PO Box 53089

Medford, MA 02155-0089

Or you can call and tell the story to her directly or to her voice mail at (781) 395-1426.

Please submit by February 28, 2011.

And here’s something to put you in the right mood for reminiscing: a performance of LADY BE GOOD from the 1986 Bern Jazz Festival by the “Condon Memories” band featuring our man Uncle Jake, Milt Hinton, Dick Wellstood, Bucky Pizzarelli, Bill Allred, Bob Wilber, Wild Bill Davison and Warren Vache — indeed!

6 responses to “THANK YOU, UNCLE JAKE

  1. “Keep Swinging” — He ALWAYS did just that!

  2. The Orange Kid

    I think race does not matter, what matters is your talet. Great words from The Orange Kid.

  3. Dear Kid,
    Of course you are right! But I am a little puzzled why you chose this blogpost to attach those words to . . . I don’t think that in my nearly three years of blogging, I’ve ever said or encouraged anyone to say that one race matters more than another. Cheers, Michael

  4. my guess, Michael, is that The Orange Kid saw up at the top of the page the link to your adjacent blog,
    and maybe thought it was a subtitle for this post. I dunno.
    Anyway, thanks for posting this. I sure miss Jake, and am eternally grateful for all the joy he brought me and everyone he crossed paths with.

  5. Dear Kid,

    Now I see what blogpost you were referring to — about Louis and race. But I think you’ve misunderstood the ends both Ricky and I have in mind. Neither of us thinks what color you are has an effect on how well you play. And neither of us likes racial generalizations, negative or positive. But if you are a Caucasian jazz musician in this country, you bring with you a heavy knapsack of non-musicians’ critical assumptions about your race and your abilities. If you are an African-American jazz musician (ditto) your knapsack has a different shape and weight but it still sits on your shoulders. For the most part the musicians have been wondrously color-blind: it’s the “critics” and “cultural historians” who haven’t been. And I can’t leave this comment without thinking of what it must have been to be Louis in his home town of New Orleans, circa 1931, returning home as a star, having the radio announcer say audibly before the broadcast, “I just can’t announce that nigger on the radio!” So please don’t tell me that race doesn’t matter: we simply have to clarify what we mean. OK?

  6. A good friend of mine, Jack Collings, living near La Porte, Indiana, met and played bass with Jake in the military. I had the pleasure of hearing Jake at several Elkhart (IN.) jazz festivals. Alas, Jack could not make the connection to hear Jake “one more time” at Elkhart. Jack was kind enough to send me Jake’s obituary. He is greatly missed.

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