Jazz great Jones dies

Bandleader, composer accompanied Monroe's birthday salute to JFK

Jazz pianist, bandleader and composer Hank Jones, whose career spanned seven decades and included stints with such legends as Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker and Benny Goodman, died May 16 in New York after a brief illness. He was 91.

Jones recorded more than 60 albums under his own name and played regularly with his two younger brothers — trumpeter Thad and drummer Elvin, both of whom predeceased him. The Mississippi native also served as staff pianist for CBS studios from 1959 until 1975 and — in one of his less-publicized, but most widely heard roles — accompanied Marilyn Monroe when she serenaded President Kennedy with an iconic rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

In 2008, Jones was honored with the National Medal of Arts, and a year later, he was awarded a lifetime achievement Grammy by NARAS. He continued to perform live, mostly around his adopted home in New York City, and was scheduled to play at Gotham’s Birdland next week.

He is survived by his wife, Theodosia.