Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Somerville Writer Maria Judge Tells The Story of her Uncle: Legendary Jazz Drummer Jake Hanna


Somerville Writer Maria Judge Tells The Story of her Uncle:  Legendary Jazz Drummer Jake Hanna

By Doug Holder

  It was not an ordinary Saturday morning at the Bagel Bards meeting at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square. A disgruntled artist sat down with us. The very one who is pursuing a lawsuit against one of our members who just happened to be present at the time. You could cut your bagel and the tension with a knife. So I was glad to go to a separate table with Maria Judge to discuss her new book.

  Judge is a member of Somerville’s Bagel Bards, lives in the Ball Square vicinity,  has worked as an administrator at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a few non-profits groups for decades. She is also a member of the Somerville Community Chorus. Judge said of Somerville: “ I love the diversity of Somerville—there are so many different types of people from all parts of the world here.”

  Judge has also written for The Somerville News, The Irish Reporter, MIT Tech Talk, and other publications. Judge told me that most of her writing is memoir, personal history and personal essay.

  In her new book: Jake Hanna: The Rhythm and Wit of a Swing Jazz Drummer she tells the story of her late uncle’s sixty year career as a  jazz drummer. Hanna’s story is told through 189 friends and fellow musicians, including Charlie Watts, Warren Vache, Marion McPartland, and others. Hanna was a drummer for the big bands of Harry James and Woody Herman. He also had a ten year gig with the Merv Griffin Show. When he went out on his own he worked with Bing Crosby, Oscar Peterson, and many other notables.

Hanna passed away in 2010. Judge recalled: “ I didn’t see him often over the years. I sort of reconnected the last 10 years of his life. Judge continued: “ It was the opening night of the Olympics when I got the word that he died. So I experienced the Olympics through a veil of tears. At his wake musicians got up and told wonderful stories about him. Guys like saxophonist Harry Allen, and trumpeter Randy Reinhart. They all fondly recalled things he said and did.

  Judge felt if she didn’t save these stories they would disappear. She decided to get them down on paper. What started out as a booklet became  a book. And she found a publisher: Meredith Music Productions.

 Judge told me that after working on the Merv Griffin show he free-lanced. He worked with Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett, and others of this ilk…and toured the world.

 Evidently, according to Judge, Hanna was quite the wit. When Carl Reiner appeared on the Griffin show and his cohort Mel Brooks showed up late, Reiner told Brooks that he had a lot of nerve.  Brooks countered that he was at his doctor’s. “I got arrhythmia!,” he said. Hanna chimed in “Who could ask for anything more?,” quoting from the Gershwin tune titled:  I Got Rhythm.

Judge has a few book launches planned for the near future. One is at the Berklee College of Music, and the other is at Porter Square Books. She plans to promote the book and is not afraid to press the flesh.

Judge recalled that she wrote part of the book in the Diesel Café in Davis Square, and at True Grounds in Ball Square.  She usually went with a friend and like yours truly can create and be productive with all the white noise of a busy café.

 As Charlie Watts, the famous Rolling Stones drummer told Judge when she was researching the book: “ I loved Hanna since the first time I met him." I ask you “ Who could ask for anything more…”

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