Roland Hanna - Jazz Pianist

I have a favorite song, A Child Is Born, with music credited to Thad Jones and Lyrics by Alec Wilder.

Now, out of the night Soft as the dawn Into the light This Child Innocent Child Soft as a fawn This Child is born One small heart One pair of eyes One work of art Here in my arms Here he lies Trusting and warm Blessed this morn A Child is born

The song is often sung at the winter holiday season although
I have learned that Wilder never intended the lyric to have a
seasonal reference. For me, both the melody and lyrics fall into the
category of being unforgettable almost from the first few notes.

Here is one of my favorite recordings of the song...

A Child Is Born - Tony Bennett and Bill Evans

And the original by Thad Jones...

I’ve been listening to these recordings for years and always believed that Thad Jones was the composer. And, then I ran into this page on WIKI...

A Child Is Born (jazz standard)

from that article...

Jazz historian Mark Stryker, in his book Jazz from Detroit, provides the following account of the writing of "A Child Is Born" (see below) and have since hunted down everything I can on Roland Hanna. Anyone have any Hanna recordings to recommend?

An intriguing twist to [Roland Hanna and Thad Jones’] relationship is that Hanna almost certainly composed “A Child Is Born,” the gentle waltz credited to Jones and his most- covered song. (Alec Wilder even wrote lyrics to it.) The precious melody unfolds in simple quarter notes and dotted half notes and sounds nothing like Jones— there’s no syncopation— and everything like Hanna’s Romanticism. David Berger, who was at the Village Vanguard for most of the band’s gigs in the early years, remembers Hanna developing the song over many weeks during his improvised solo features; Jones showed up one night with a full- band arrangement of what Hanna had been playing. Hanna confirms this story in his Fillius Jazz Archive interview. He doesn’t mention the song by name, but it could only be “A Child Is Born.”

“I said, ‘Thad, isn’t that my tune?’ He said, ‘No, it’s mine.’” Hanna chuckled as he recounted the story. If there were ever any hard feelings, he appears to have let them go. He excuses Jones’ pilfering as akin to Ellington appropriating melodies improvised by his sidemen. “I never faulted [Thad] for that because he was just doing what bandleaders did,” Hanna said. “If you throw an idea out there, he’d take it and write it down.”

Hanna never contested Jones’ authorship publicly, but he told friends privately that he wrote the song. “I gifted it to Thad” is how he put it to pianist Michael Weiss.[3]



Thanks for providing additional background insight. “A Child Is Born” has been a favorite jazz ballad of mine for many years. Two other Detroit jazz musicians who have recorded this song are Pepper Adams (Baritone saxophone) and Kenny Burrell (Guitarist). Thad Jones was a brilliant jazz trumpeter.


Great post, bigquery. It’s really not surprising. Like Jazz performance itself, the composition process is often a collaborative process.

**** …. If you throw an idea out there, he’d take it and write it down.” ****

It is interesting to note how, in a lot of great Jazz, a soloist begins a solo with the motif (musical idea) that the previous soloist ends his solo with. He then develops that idea while creating a spontaneous composition (improvisation) based on that idea. Personally, I wouldn’t be too quick to give Hanna all the credit for the tune.

I had the pleasure of hearing the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra many times on Monday nights at the Village Vanguard and heard Thad and Roland perform this great tune.

One of my favorite things on YouTube.  Btw, notice how quick Thad is to give credit to Jerome Richardson for writing this composition.  Says something in my book.
Roland Hanna sounds incredible. What a great time feel! :



Thanks for posting this video. What an intro by Hanna ! The epitome of groove and swing. My foot was tapping and head was nodding with the beat before completion of the first bar. The great Paul chambers on bass. Nice!


This is well known album, where R.Hanna plays (very lyrical) as a sideman. If you have not herad it, (doubt, but still) its certainly worth having it.



Than, some others album that I have and that I can recommend...

Tributaries, Reflections on Tommy Flanagan