One of the lesser-known recording artists in the Creed Taylor pantheon is Sir Roland Hanna. Hanna was pianist on arguably the greatest of all CTI jazz tracks, Jim Hall’s “Concierto”. This post is to debut my fantasy Record Store Day 2022 release, “The 24 Preludes Of Roland Hanna”. The post includes the Preludes, immediately below; a video of Roland Hanna performing with fellow CTI alumni Ron Carter on his “Double Bass(Live) album; finally is a rare BBC Radio 3 interview with Hanna, just before his death in 2002. Press play, read on.

I’ve often thought about doing something with the “Preludes” and during a recent listening session, it struck me the answer was obvious. Edit the tracks into a single, continuous performance. Using “viny to digital” recordings of my copies of the albums, it took just a few hours and some careful editing to produce the mix. My copy of Book:1 Preludes 1-12 has a lot of surface noise and clicks. I spent a considerable time cleaning the sound up to minimize the distraction. Same for the start of Book:2 – Preludes 13-24.

All 24 Preludes are presented here in order, at their original length. I did overdub a few notes here and there to remove intertrack silence and transition between tracks. At 1-hour and 19-minutes and 36-seconds it would just fit at the limits of a CDDA audio CD.

Book: 1 Preludes 1-12
Label: CTI Records – GP-3072, Salvation – GP-3072
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: Japan
Released: 1976

Composed By – Roland Hanna
Piano – Roland Hanna
Bass – George Mraz
Producer – Motohiko Takawa
Engineer [Recording, Re-mixing] – Yoshiharu Fukushima

Recorded in June 24, 25 &29, 1976 at Studio 2, King Records, Tokyo
℗ 1976 Salvation Records, A Division of Creed Taylor, Inc.
Published by Rahanna Music Co. (BMI)

Book:2 Preludes 13-24
Label: Salvation (4) – GP-3154
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: Japan
Released: 1978

Composed By – Roland Hanna
Concert Grand Piano – Roland Hanna
Bass – George Mraz
Producer – Motohiko Takawa
Engineer – Yoshiharu Fukushima
Lacquer Cut By – Shogo Sakamaki

Recording date: Oct 25 & 26, 1977 at Studio 2, King Records, Tokyo
℗ 1978 Salvation Records, A Division of Creed Taylor, Inc.
Published by Rahanna Music Co. (BMI)

At the time of the vinyl album releases there was no reporting or reviews in American or English language magazines. Partially I suspect because outside of Hanna and Mraz and the production team at King Records in Tokyo, no one knew the albums had been recorded. However, in 1978 just after the release of Book:2, Hanna was back in the US, and was interviewed by John Stix interviewed Roland for “Contemporary Keyboard” magazine[1]Big shout-out to Laurie and the archive/research team at the Denver Public Library. DPL is my primary research vehicle. In an era when Google has everything, and anything is a simple search away, it … Continue reading.

Hanna feels that his finest solo piano work was captured on the Japanese albums, released there under the title “The 24 Preludes Of Roland Hanna”.

My old record company. CTI, told me the Japanese wanted to record some preludes, so I began practicing,” he says. “When I got there I found that they didn’t want Debussy’s – they wanted mine. I told them it was impossible to prepare something in the time we had, but they didn’t care So I said. ‘Get me a private room and a piano, and we’ll see.’

Now. I’ve been playing Steinways ever since I can remember I’ve always thought they were the best pianos
anywhere, until I played this particular Bosendorfer they got me. The moment I touched that instrument, all the music was there. The pieces came out as if the piano had a soul of its own. We did the whole thing, writing and recording, in four days.”

These records may be released in America in another year or so. according to Hanna

Roland Hanna – Versatile Mainstream Pianist – Interviewed by John Stix, Contemporary Pianist Magazine, Vol. 4 1978.

Hanna said of the Preludes on the liner notes for Book:2

Each Prelude is an individual piece of music unto itself, the group, as a whole, is a reflection of my experiences and each one is my comment about some happening, person or feeling that has touched me in some way.

I sincerely hope that these Preludes will give pleasure to all who listen to them and in some way become a catalyst for the imaginations of each person they touch; for throughout the twenty-four Preludes it has been my intention to communicate Love.

Roland Hanna – Liner Notes, 24 Preludes, Book:2

Why didn’t the Preludes get released as Roland hoped?

Background and Context

As Hanna and George Mraz headed into the recording studio in June 1976 and again in October 1977 to record Hanna’s self-written albums “24 Preludes Book:1″[2]https://www.discogs.com/master/1324360-Roland-Hanna-24-Preludes-Book-1 and “24 Preludes Book:2″[3]https://www.discogs.com/master/1390654-Roland-Hanna-24-Preludes-Book-2. Modelled after the Debussy’s 24 Preludes[4]Préludes (Debussy) – Wikipedia, also released as 12-per book and two books. Around late 1976, Creed Taylor International, the company founded by Creed, that owned the CTI, Kudu, Salvation and Greenstreet labels started to drown in a sea of debt, caused by a major label tidal wave.

If they had been released in the US at the time, they would have been released on Salvation. While this is perceived to be the CTI Gospel label, it never developed that way. It became the vehicle used to release recordings that Creed Taylor typically didn’t produce but were often licensed by one of CTI’s two publishing companies, Three Brothers Music and Charliz. All the albums on Salvation are somewhat hard to find because they only had CTI distribution and were not subcontracted out, hence didn’t have a large sales volume. By 1978 this was both useful for legal reasons, and in the 1970’s for distributing and marketing reasons. The music industry has always clung to the notion that market segmentation is a good thing.

The “Preludes” make two of the four albums with Hanna as leader on CTI Labels. The “Preludes” were recorded, engineered, mixed, mastered and produced in Tokyo and released on vinyl in Japan on the CTI Salvation label. It wouldn’t be until 1982 that Hanna would be produced as a leader by Creed Talor in a another fairly obscure album, “Gershwin Carmichael Cats”[5]https://www.discogs.com/master/445129-Roland-Hanna-Gershwin-Carmichael-Cats.

All 24 Preludes were released on CD in 1995 and rereleased in 2003 and 2015 by King Records in Japan. The CD release, like the vinyl albums were never released outside of Japan. It’s not clear why it took almost 2-years to release Book:2 – it likely won’t have been helped by the fact the “Preludes” are hard to classify and hence market.

Roland Hanna

Born in 1932, Hanna was one of many talented pianists who began their careers in Detroit during the 1940’s and 50’s. Unlike many of his peers from that period, Hanna also studied classical music and attended both the Eastman School of Music and Julliard.

For whatever reason, Hanna never really got the break that would mark him as a leading pianist. His style wasn’t one of pushing boundaries unlike Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and to a degree, Cecil Taylor. His leader albums were produced and released across many labels, probably because, like “24 Preludes” they didn’t fall easily into a market segment. Hanna though was a jazz fusion pianist long before Corea, Hancock et al. As Stix noted “Long before the expression “fusion music” came into vogue. Roland Hanna was practicing his own brand of fusion by blending elements of classical music and jazz into a piano style all his own.”

Hanna’s first long-term gig was with the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis band, starting in 1966. This was after working with Benny Goodman in 1958, Mingus in 1959, having been pianist for Sarah Vaughan in 1960, almost a decade before Bob James would fill that role; and then Carmen McRae in 1965. Hanna spent some eight years with Jones/Lewis, through to 1974. He picked up some major session work as a 1st call for Taylor produced albums[6]Roland Hanna | Discography | Discogs, not least the 1967 Herbie Mann “Glory Of Love” on which he played organ.

Movies

As far as I’m able to establish, Hanna never scored any film music. One of his earliest Japanese ventures though was to appear in the 1964 Japanese film “Asphalt Girl”. Ignore the IMDB claim Hanna was one of the stars of the movie, he wasn’t. The film was an early example of Japanese imitation of American film musicals. Hanna appeared in two scenes with the Thad Jones band, one is online[7]thad jones in classic j-movie. – YouTube. Hanna did appear in two other films as part of a band, the Spike Lee films “Jungle Fever” (1991) and “Malcom X” (1992).

New York Quartet

[Adverts above clipped from the Patterson New Jersey News, left dated May 2nd, 1975 , right dated November 1st, 1974.]

Hanna’s career as a leader really got going in 1971 when he, along with Ron Carter(Bass), Ben Riley(Drums), Frank Weiss(Sax, Flute) formed the “New York Jazz Quartet”. They appeared in the greater New York and San Francisco metro areas switching between Frank Wess Quartet, the Ron Carter Quartet, or using the New York Jazz Quartet.

The New York Quartet 1975 live album[8]https://www.discogs.com/master/954645-The-New-York-Jazz-Quartet-In-Concert-In-Japan-Volume-One recorded in Tokyo’s Yubin-Chokin-Kaikan Hall, was also released on Salvation Records and was one of a clutch of CTI albums release in July 1975, including “Esther Phillips w/Beck” and the epic Jim Hall “Concierto” album on which Hanna played on the title track.

Sir Roland continued to grow as a pianist, learning from masters in all fields. In the late 1980’s and early 90’s, he worked with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. He also toured as a solo pianist with the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling Duke Ellington exhibition in 1999.

Hanna had always taught piano, he told Monk Rowe, in an interview archived at the Jazz Archive and Hamilton College in New York, that by 1966 he initially turned down Thad Jones:

I had a lot of students, I told Hank[Jones] I’m busy, I’ve got students, and if you can’t do this gig let me know so I can arrange to do it every Monday. So Hank said okay, you’ve got it. And I started working with the band. And this association with the band, it sort of branched out.

Roland Hanna, Interview with Monk Rowe, The Fillius Jazz Archive, Hamilton College. [9]https://jazzarchive.hamilton.edu/islandora/search/%2A%3A%2A?f%5B0%5D=mods_name_personal_interviewee_namePart_ms%3A%22Hanna%2C%20Roland%22

As well as his private students, his performance and recording schedule, Sir Roland was a tenured professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, The City University of New York. During a memorial concert at Queens College in Hanna’s honor Professor Emeritus Jimmy Heath stated that no matter what Sir Roland Hanna did, or how he did it, he was always “raising the bar.”

Sir Roland

Like “Knights of the Realm” in the UK, Hanna’s honorarium was bestowed on him. In 1970, President William Tubman of Liberia. The Tour of Liberia came about after being approached at one of his New York performances. The booker was collecting people from all over the world for a big concert to raise funds to build a school in Monrovia. There would be no fee, but they needed someone with Hanna’s talent to play a number of genre’s including Broadway theater. Hanna agreed immediately.

The original booking was for a single week in Liberia. Given the initial success, the show went to Senegal, Komakry, Guinea Bissau. The shows raised a lot of money. Hanna was invited to the President’s house in Monrovia. In exchange for their extended stay and no payment, Hanna accepted in Knighthood. The ceremony was carried out at the Liberian Consulate, with Hanna’s family in attendence[10]https://jazzarchive.hamilton.edu/islandora/search/%2A%3A%2A?f%5B0%5D=mods_name_personal_interviewee_namePart_ms%3A%22Hanna%2C%20Roland%22.

BBC Jazz Library Interview

Just before Sir Roland left for his final tour of Japan, he was interviewed for the BBC Jazz Library by Alyn Shipton. Here is a recording of a repeat broadcast of the interview, replayed in in July, 2009.

Death

Sir Roland Hanna died, age 70, in 2002. He contracted a rare viral affection of the heart while on tour in Japan. He died three weeks later.

Billboard Magazine – Novermber 30th, 2002

Remembering Sir Roland’s Preludes

Given their limited release in Japan only, Hanna’s Preludes are not forgotten. Late in 2021, pianist Aaron Diehl(Pianist | Aaron Diehl)) who has performed in trios, including his own, also in the band for Cecile McClorin Salvant. In November 2021, In this solo recital concert it was reported he covered both classical and jazz and included Sir Roland Hanna’s 24-Preludes at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum[11]The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Sun, Sep 12, 2021.

I spoke with Aaron who told me that Ethan Iverson[12]Ethan Iverson – Wikipedia had suggested “24 Preludes” to him. Aaron reached out to Sir Roland’s son, Michael Hanna to license/buy the sheet music, which they cleaned up the notes for, and that’s how the performance came about. Aaron is planning to perform the “24 Preludes” again in 2022, be sure to follow the ctproduced instagram page for updates. Aaron’s tour dates can be found here.

Roland Hanna, remained a longtime collaborator with Ron Carter. Roland can be seen here on Ron’s “Double Bass Live”, which I restored and upscaled from a laserdisc and is on the ctproduced YouTube channel.

Roland Hanna, piano, performs a jazz set with Clarence “Scoby” Stroman, drums, and Ron Carter, bass, at WBAI’s Free Music Store on March 7, 1972. This performance is streamed from the Internet Archive.

Further Information

Roland Hanna [wikipedia]
Roland Hanna discography [discogs]
Monk Rowe Interviews Sir Roland Hanna [YouTube]
The Giants of Jazz Piano : Doerschuk, Bob [Internet Archive]
The fifty greatest jazz piano players of all time: Rizzo, Gene [Internet Archive]
Roland Hanna – Sampled and Covers [Who Sampled]

Updates: 4/27/22 Added notes from Aaron Diehl discussion

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