Will you be Swimming-to-Improve at 87?
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on May 18th, 2010

Hank Jones, one of the most respected jazz pianists of the postwar era, and–with his brothers Thad and Elvin–a “first family of jazz,” died on Sunday in the Bronx at age 91. Read his obituary here.

Hank Jones at practice.

From the obit: “Critics often wrote that Mr. Jones had an exceptional touch. He himself was not so sure.

‘I never tried consciously to develop a touch,’  he told The Detroit Free Press in 1997. ‘What I tried to do was make whatever lines I played flow evenly and fully and as smoothly as possible.

‘I think the way you practice has a lot to do with it,’ he explained. ‘If you practice scales religiously and practice each note firmly with equal strength, certainly you’ll develop a certain smoothness. I used to practice a lot. I still do.”

On Monday, Fresh Air, the NPR interview program, rebroadcast an interview with Mr Jones from 2007. In it he told host Terry Gross that he was still learning new material. He was 87 at the time, still practicing scales religiously and working on making his lines flow smoothly.

I think of–and practice–swimming as a movement art, more than a sport. By doing so, I hope and expect–because my DNA is human, not fish–to still find improvement opportunities 30 years from now, when I’m approaching 90.

Will you be practicing-to-improve in your late 80s like Hank Jones. Will you do so on your next swim?

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