A talented pianist with a style diverse enough to fit into swing, bop, and more adventurous settings, Roland Hanna was one of the last in an impressive line of great pianists who emerged in Detroit after World War II (including Hank Jones, Barry Harris, and Tommy Flanagan). After serving in the Army and studying music at Eastman and Juilliard, Hanna made a strong impression playing with Benny Goodman (1958). He worked with Charles Mingus for a period in 1959, and went on to generally lead his own trios. Hanna was an integral part of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra (1967-1974), and in 1974 helped found the New York Jazz Quartet (with Frank Wess).
In the late 1960s, while still playing with Jones and Lewis, Hanna formed the New York Jazz Sextet. In 1974 Hanna left the Jones-Lewis Orchestra, citing the group's more commercial direction as the reason for his departure. He then formed the New York Jazz Quartet, which featured former Count Basie saxophonist and flutist Frank Wess. The group focused exclusively on its members' original compositions. After some time, Hanna acknowledged a greater acceptance of the growing trend toward rock-oriented fusion music, a style the Jones-Lewis Orchestra had embraced. "[O]ne of the main reasons I left the Thad Jones band was because they began to play rock-oriented music with electronic instruments and all that and I just couldn't take that," he told Crescendo International in 1980. "But I've changed now; I still don't play electric instruments, but at least I can listen to them, and I can understand why they want to do it."
Hanna released some of his most critically acclaimed albums in the 1970s, including Child of Gemini, an ensemble suite for piano and cello, Sir Elf, and Sir Roland Hanna: A Gift from the Magi, which ISAM's Tucker called "Hanna's masterpiece." He continued: "Steeped in French Impressionism and 19th-century Romanticism, Hanna finds a seamless way to integrate such keyboard styles with the vocabulary of mid-century jazz."
Hanna continued to play with the quartet through the 1980s. One of the most acclaimed recordings to come out of this collaboration was 1984's The New York Jazz Quartet in Chicago. Noting that Hanna was a bandleader with an ensemble mentality, Down Beat 's Jack Sohmer wrote: "[I]t is indeed a pleasure to hear from a pianist who is truly a whole musician, one who thinks and responds in manners that are beneficial to the unit at hand and not just to himself," he wrote. Hanna took some time off in the 1980s in order to refocus musically. "I've just found that to work alone, without the problems that other people present, is the easiest area and yet the one that offers the most challenge to me," he told Crescendo International in 1980.
Hanna begins the song with a slowly ascending melody that erupts into a powerful chordal statement complete with low bass notes and robust sounding voicings. Roland fills the air with a sentimental atmosphere that is only enhanced throughout the song. After three minutes, he begins a walking bass-like passage that segues into a heartfelt sounding declaration that helps to serve the overall emotional arc of the song. Hanna ends the song by allowing the piano to sustain where it slowly drifts off, ending a highly emotional statement.
Throughout his later career, Hanna remained a committed and influential teacher at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. On Wednesday, November 13, 2002, Roland died after to a viral infection of the heart in Hackensack, New Jersey, he was seventy years old. Shortly after, Queens College organized a memorial concert in his honor where his friend and colleague tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath performed.
Roland Hanna (p)
George Mraz (b)
Motohiko Hino (ds)
Album："Roland Hanna / Glove"
Recorded：Tokyo, October15, 1977.