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War On Tap: America's Obsession With Bottled Water

More than 85 million bottles of water are sold every day in the United States. Freshwater expert Peter Gleick explains what's in them -- and why we drink them -- in the book Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.


Other segments from the episode on May 17, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 17, 2010: Interview with Peter Gleick; Obituary for Hank Jones.


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
War On Tap: America's Obsession With Bottled Water


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

When you're drinking bottled water, do you ever wonder where it comes from? Is
it really from the spring that it's named after? Is it really just purified tap
water from the municipal system? Is it worth lugging home gallons of bottled
water when you can turn on the tap in your kitchen sink?

My guest, Peter Gleick, has written a new book called "Bottled and Sold" that
answers a lot of questions about bottled water and also describes some of the
problems it's causing. Gleick says every second of every day in the U.S., 1,000
people buy and open a plastic bottle of commercially produced water and, every
second of every day, 1,000 plastic bottles are thrown away.

Bottled water may taste good, but Gleick says it's producing billions of tons
of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. He says Americans should be insisting
that their municipal water systems are maintained and upgraded so that they can
provide public tap water that is safe and tastes good.

Gleick is a water expert who was named a MacArthur fellow in 2003. He's the co-
founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development,
Environment and Security, based in Oakland.

Peter Gleick, welcome back to FRESH AIR. Most bottled water has such healthy-
sounding names, like, with springs and glaciers in the title. But the water
isn't often – often isn't from a spring, or at least it isn't from the spring
you'd think it was from. You give a few examples in your book, like Arctic
Spring Water is actually from Lakeland, Florida. Glacier Mountain Natural
Spring Water is actually from New Jersey. Are they from springs?

Mr. PETER GLEICK (Author, "Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession
with Bottled Water"): Well, we get most of our bottled water in the United
States from two kinds of places. We get them from springs, and if you actually
see the words spring water on the bottle, it's required to come from either a
spring or, more likely, from a groundwater well that's drilled into where that
spring comes from.

Or about 40 or 45 percent of our bottled water actually comes from reprocessed
municipal water. And that – I mean, that's a story all by itself. But there are
a bunch of strange names for bottled water. We get Arctic water from Tennessee
or from Florida, certainly not from the Arctic.

Yosemite water comes from Los Angeles. Everest water comes from Texas, and
there are plenty of big things in Texas, but Mount Everest isn't one of them.
And so, part of the challenge is thinking about what's on the bottle and what
they're really trying to tell us versus what's actually likely to be in that

GROSS: Now, you mention that a lot of bottled water actually comes from
municipal water and is then purified and reprocessed. So examples of that kind
of water, bottled water that's actually from municipal water supplies includes
Dasani, which is produced by Coke; Aquafina, which is produced by PepsiCo; and
Pure Life which is produced by Nestle.

So, when bottled water actually comes from the municipal water supply, how is
it transformed into bottled water? What do they do with the tap water to – you
know, to the municipal water to make it bottled water?

Mr. GLEICK: Many bottlers, and some of the big ones like Coca-Cola and Pepsi
that produce Dasani and Aquafina, they take municipal water, they often run it
through additional processes, other filters, some kinds of purification

For Dasani, for example, for the Coca-Cola product, they actually strip out all
of the minerals and then they put minerals back so that Dasani that's bottled
in New York or Dasani that's bottled in Detroit or Dasani that's bottled in the
San Francisco Bay Area actually all tastes the same. They call it pixie dust or
magic dust to make all of these bottled waters taste the same, but it

GROSS: The pixie dust is the packet of minerals that they put in to reinstitute
the taste that they took out when they took out the minerals during the
purification process?

Mr. GLEICK: Yes, that's right, but you have to understand, this stuff
originates as potable tap water in the first place.

GROSS: When you buy bottled water that's actually purified tap water, as
opposed to spring water, does it tell you that on the bottle? Does it say this
water is actually from, like, the Philadelphia water supply or the New Jersey
municipal water plant?

Mr. GLEICK: There is no requirement at the federal level that water bottlers
put the source of the water on their bottle. There has been some pressure in
recent years to make them do that, and some of the big bottlers are beginning
to list their sources, but there's no requirement.

But if it doesn't say spring water, you can be pretty sure it's probably coming
from some purified municipal water system. And interestingly, Poland Spring,
which I think you mentioned earlier...

GROSS: I didn't, but go ahead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GLEICK: Oh, I'm sorry – is a Nestle brand. It's pretty well-known on the
East Coast. It's one of Nestle's many brands. But in the old days, Poland
Spring came from Poland Spring, a spring in Maine that was known for its high-
quality water.

But the demand for bottled water from Nestle's and from Poland Spring has
gotten so large that in fact there's almost no water coming out of Poland
Spring anymore. They've over-pumped it and now, Poland Spring water is no
longer a source of water, it's a brand name. And the stuff that's in a Poland
Spring water bottle may come from any one of half a dozen or more springs
somewhere in the Northeast.

GROSS: But it's still spring water, but you're saying that you think the name
is misleading, that most people think it's actually the Poland Spring that
they're getting the water from, not just a brand name now?

Mr. GLEICK: I would think that if I didn't know better. I would think that
Poland Spring water would come from that famous Poland Spring.

GROSS: Actually, there was a class-action suit that you write about in your
book in 2003 that accused the company of false advertising. What was the

Mr. GLEICK: Well, that's right. Yeah, when the news sort of started to filter
out that, in fact, Poland Spring water no longer came from Poland Spring, I
think some consumer groups in Connecticut and Massachusetts sued the company,
sued Nestle. And now, if you look carefully at the fine print on a Poland
Spring bottle, you'll see it says this water comes – and I don't have one in
front of me – but this water comes from, and it lists six or seven or eight
different springs. They do list Poland Spring as one of the many springs
without specifying actually where it comes from.

GROSS: As you point out in your book, when you buy bottled water, you're
unlikely to find out exactly where the water has come from, but you are going
to learn that the water has zero calories, zero carbs, zero protein, which you
kind of already knew. So why don't you explain those – that labeling issue that
you don't have to tell where it's bottled, but you do have to say that it's got
zero calories.

Mr. GLEICK: I think bottle water labels are remarkable for how little
information they really provide the consumer. They have a name. They have a
company. They have often a beautiful logo of a mountain or a, you know, some
pristine natural scene.

GROSS: A nice bird flying by.

Mr. GLEICK: And sometimes they have the FDA nutrition label that we're all
familiar with from the back our food products that tell us calories, fat,
cholesterol, carbohydrates, protein, that kind of thing. And for bottled water
especially, that label is just ridiculous. There is no fat. There's no
cholesterol. There's no carbohydrates. There's no protein. There are no
calories in bottled water. And so you look at a nutrition label for bottled
water, and it's zero, zero, zero, zero, zero.

But there are things in water. There are always natural minerals in water. And,
in fact, you don't want to drink water that doesn't have natural minerals in
it. There's calcium and iron and magnesium and potassium and sodium and zinc,
and you know, there are all sorts of natural things that are perfectly healthy
for us. But our labels in the United States don't tell us what is in our – what
really is in our bottled water.

GROSS: So who decides what needs to be on the label? What agency is regulating

Mr. GLEICK: Bottled water in the United States is regulated by the Food and
Drug Administration. They determine the rules for labels. They determine the
rules for water quality testing and monitoring. They determine inspection

It's odd that in the United States, where our tap water is regulated by the
Environmental Protection Agency under the rules set by our law called the Safe
Drinking Water Act, that bottled water is actually considered a food product.
It's different and, hence, regulated by the FDA.

GROSS: So that's interesting. So if you have two glasses, and you pour bottled
water into one glass and tap water into the other glass, both glasses are
regulated by different agencies.

Mr. GLEICK: And the rules are different and the monitoring – what they measure
is different and who does the measuring is different and how often it's
measured is different and the rules for notifying the public about problems are

I think this is one of the big problems with bottled water. I can't come up
with a good argument why they shouldn't be identical, why the rules for tap
water and bottled water shouldn't be the same, but they aren't.

GROSS: So what are some of differences in how tap water and bottled water are

Mr. GLEICK: Well, there are lots of differences. One of the big ones is that,
first of all, the EPA regulates all of our tap water under federal law. The FDA
regulates bottled water but only bottled water that is in what we call
interstate commerce, that crosses state lines.

And so, if somebody bottles water and sells it within the same state, the FDA
doesn't have any regulatory authority over that to begin with. And so, right
off the bat, 60 to 70 percent of our bottled water actually isn't regulated by
the federal government because it doesn't enter interstate commerce.

But then the kinds of things that we measure are sometimes a little different.
The rules are supposed to be the same. They're supposed to be no less
protective than federal rules for tap water. But we often monitor tap water
dozens of times a day.

A big city will do water quality tests dozens of times a day. Bottled water
might be tested once a week and once a month or once a year or even less often
for certain kinds of constituents.

It's often measured by laboratories that aren't independent. The companies
often do their own bottled water testing, and they're supposed to report to the
FDA, but they rarely do. There are a lot of differences.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Peter Gleick. He's the author of
the new book "Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled
Water." Let's take a short break here, and then we'll talk some more. This is

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Peter Gleick. He is the author of
the new book "Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled
Water." He edits the biennial report The World's Water. He's a former MacArthur
fellow and is the founder and president of the think-tank The Pacific
Institute, which is located in Oakland.

One of the things you did as research for this book is you filed a Freedom of
Information Act. What were you looking for? What did you ask for?

Mr. GLEICK: There is this question about how good our bottled water quality
really is, and I believe mostly it's fine, but I also believe that we don't
test and measure and report bottled water quality as much as we ought to.

And one of the things that I wanted to try and find out was the extent to which
the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, is really keeping track of problems
with bottled water.

One day, I heard about a recall of a brand of bottled water and that made me
think, all right, have there been other recalls of other bottled water? And
when I went to the FDA website, where in theory they're supposed to list food
recalls, and I looked around for bottled water recalls, I found a few but I
didn't find the one that I knew about.

And so I wrote to the FDA and said, look, I'd like to know all of the bottled
water recalls that you've had. And it took months of back and forth before they
finally released all of that information, but it turns out we do have problems
with bottled water.

There have been more than 100 official recalls of bottled water, many of which
have never been – that aren't publicly available. There's been contamination
with mold and with kerosene and with algae, and bottled water's been found with
yeast and fecal coliforms and other bacteria and glass particles, and probably
– and my favorite example, with crickets.

There was an instance in the mid-1990s with a bottler in Nacogdoches, Texas,
where they produced bottled water with crickets, and they ended up recalling
the water very late, months after the contamination was found and probably
months after those crickets were sold.

GROSS: Were the crickets actually in the bottles?

Mr. GLEICK: Apparently. I didn't buy one but there were crickets or – not to be
too graphic – maybe cricket parts in some of the bottled water that they
bottled and sold.

GROSS: So what's your conclusion based on the FOIA information that you got?

Mr. GLEICK: Well, there are a couple things that I think are worrisome. One is
when we really do look at the quality of bottled water, we find problems. Now,
that's bad. It suggests we need to be much more aggressive about regulating and
protecting bottled water quality and all water quality. Another one is that the
rules aren't working right. I think the public ought to know more regularly,
more frequently, more openly, about what's in our bottled water.

With these recalls, often the recalls themselves were not issued until
literally months after the contamination was found and months after the product
hit the shelves and probably was bought and consumed.

When we have a contamination problem with our tap water, the rules say the
public needs to be notified the same day, but with bottled water, the rules are
much less strict.

GROSS: So, one of the problems that you have and that many people have with
bottled water is that it wastes – it creates and wastes all this plastic. You
have, you know, a gazillion water bottles that are thrown out every day, and
many of them are not recycled. So what happens to the not-recycled plastic

Mr. GLEICK: In the United States, probably 70 or 75 percent of the plastic
water bottles that we buy and consume are never recycled. The industry likes to
tell us that PET plastic is completely recyclable. And that's true, but there's
a big difference between recyclable and recycled, and the truth is we're bad at
recycling. We don't recycle most of the materials that we use that could be
recycled. And the stuff that isn't recycled, it goes to landfills. And when it
goes to landfills, it's buried, and it lasts forever, effectively forever.

PET, because it's, you know, it's a wonderful food – it's a wonderful packaging
for food, but it's wonderful because it's incredibly stable, and that
characteristic makes it a bad thing for our landfills.

GROSS: So what is PET plastic?

Mr. GLEICK: The vast majority of the bottled water that's sold in the United
States is sold in something called PET, polyethylene terephthalate. It's the
plastic with the little symbol number one, for those people who look at the
bottom of their plastic containers. And it was invented in the very early
1940s, in 1941, by two British chemists, and it's a wonderful plastic for food.
It's resistant to heat. It's impermeable to carbonation, so we can put bubbly
things in it. It's strong. It's light. It's impact-resistant. It's transparent,
and it's recyclable. It's a pretty good plastic for food products. But it's not
so great for the environment.

GROSS: So when you do recycle your bottles from bottled water, what happens to
them then?

Mr. GLEICK: Well, it would be nice if we recycled our PET and we collected it,
and it was transported to someplace where they turned it back into bottles and
closed the loop so that we didn't have to use raw petroleum, a very expensive
material to make new, virgin PET. But that's not what happens.

When we recycle or plastic, it typically goes, ironically enough, to China,
where it's turned into fabric, it's turned into rugs, it's turned into
strapping material, it's turned into polyester clothing. It's what we call
down-cycled rather than recycled, really.

GROSS: What's wrong with the recycling because isn't it preventing – yeah.

Mr. GLEICK: No, recycling's great. I'm a big fan of recycling. I think 100
percent of our PET ought to be recycled, but I believe that the bottles that we
make ought to be made from recycled material rather than from virgin petroleum,
from raw resources.

If we could close the loop, if we could recycle all our plastic bottles and
turn them back into plastic bottles, first of all, we wouldn't have the
environmental impact dealing – we wouldn't have to deal with huge quantities of
plastic in landfill, and then we wouldn't have to take tremendous amounts of
raw energy, petroleum, and turn it into stuff that we throw away.

GROSS: So I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that a lot of
America's recycled plastic water bottles go to China for the recycling.

Mr. GLEICK: Yeah, it's sort of amazing, in part because there's not much demand
for recycled material here in the United States. Coca-Cola's actually just
opened a new plant in South Carolina that is going to turn recycled plastic
bottles back into plastic bottles, or they're going to use some of that
material for plastic bottles.

But it's one of the weird things about the world economy today that it's
economic to collect recycled plastic in the United States and then ship it
across the Pacific, which is a really big ocean, to China, where they turn it
into toys and carpets and other things that they then ship back to us. It's a
strange – we live in a strange world, economically, when that sort of thing is

GROSS: You know, I think one of the concerns with tap water is that long after
the water system, the municipal water systems were built, new chemicals were
dumped into, you know, into lakes and rivers and so on, and so that there's all
kinds of pollutants in the water that our system was never designed to filter
out and that the EPA doesn't necessarily even test for. So in that sense, you
don't know what you're drinking.

Mr. GLEICK: There's no doubt that our tap water system, which is good, could be
better and should be better. The federal government should reassess the Safe
Drinking Water Act, the law that determines the kinds of things that we measure
and the kinds of things we monitor and protect in our tap water system
precisely because there are new things in the environment.

There are new chemicals. There are better testing methods that let us detect
smaller and smaller quantities of things. There are more and more things in our
tap water system that might be bad for human health, and we ought to know
whether they're bad, and we ought to remove them. And that requires, I think,
supporting and expanding state of the art tap water systems.

Our tap water's not as good as it could be. It's good, but it ought to be
better, and one of the reasons people move to bottled water is because they
either are afraid that our tap water system isn't good enough, or it isn't. And
it ought to be fixed.

The answer to problems with our tap water isn't bottled water, though. We can't
afford bottled water for everybody, and I think it would be a big mistake to
let our tap water systems decay.

GROSS: Well, Peter Gleick, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. GLEICK: Sure, happy to be here.

GROSS: Peter Gleick is the author of the new book "Bottled and Sold: The Story
Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water." He's the co-founder and president of
the Pacific Institute.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Remembering Hank Jones, 'The Dean Of Jazz Pianists'


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Hank Jones, the musician Whitney Balliett said was widely regarded as the dean
of jazz pianists, died yesterday at the age of 91. Jones and his two brothers
became one of the most remarkable families in jazz history. Elvin Jones played
with John Coltrane and became one of the most influential jazz drummers. Thad
Jones played trumpet and co-led one of the most important big bands in post-Big
Band Era.

Hank Jones was the oldest of the brothers, and he lived longer than they did.
He was the first to leave home. He toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic,
recorded with Charlie Parker, accompanied Ella Fitzgerald and worked for many
years as a house pianist at CBS. He recorded many albums as a side man and a

We're going to listen back to an interview I recorded with Hank Jones in 2005.
Let's start with his 1987 recording of "S Wonderful," featuring Eddie Gomez on
bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums.

(Soundbite of song, "S Wonderful")

GROSS: Hank Jones, welcome to FRESH AIR. We're so glad to have you on the show.

Mr. HANK JONES (Jazz Pianist): Well, thank you, Terry. It's a pleasure being

GROSS: Let me start with is - with what I know is a very obvious question, and
it's probably the question you've been most asked about your career, which is:
What do you think is the explanation for the fact that you and your late
brothers Elvin and Thad Jones became such great musicians? I mean, was there
something in your water? Was there something in your house, in your family?
What do you think explains it?

Mr. JONES: Well, the only thing in the water were parasites. But I think...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: ...the fact that both my mother and my father were musical had a lot
to do with it, you know. And we come from a very religious background. Both my
mother and my father were very religious. My father was a devoutly - devout
Christian all of his life. And he taught us the things - moral values I think
is something that some parents don't teach their children. We learned - I
learned that early on. And my father, for instance, wouldn't even allow a pack
of cards to be in the house.

He was against gambling, drinking, smoking, you name it. He was, you know, he
was a very, very devout Christian, and I think that has something to do with
it. You see, my father's main thing was that he didn't object to music per se,
but he thought that no jazz should ever be played in the church. And he thought
that if you had any kind of musical talent, it should be exhibited in the
church in the form of accompanying a choir or playing church music and so forth
like that. But never any jazz in the church, and never played on Sunday, by the

GROSS: Did you play in the church?

Mr. JONES: Yes, I played - I accompanied the church - the junior choir and the
senior choir both on organ and piano. And later, many, many years later, I
actually played a jazz concert at a church in Tenafly, New Jersey, and the
audience loved it. In fact, they invited us to do it over again. But I felt
somewhat guilty, and I just didn't want to do it again. I thought that my
father might not have approved.

GROSS: What are some of the things you think you learned about the piano and
about harmony and rhythm from playing in the church, accompanying the choir?

Mr. JONES: Well, all of the church hymns that were played and sung, some of
which were written by Martin Luther, were all harmonically correct. And I think
that some of that carried over into my musical thinking. The phrases and the -
not the melodies, particularly, but the way the hymns were phrased and the
harmony that was used I'm sure carried over into my musical thinking.

GROSS: How old were you when you went to New York to play in '43 or '44?

Mr. JONES: I was 21.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JONES: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: And - so you were performing, I think, on 52nd Street or near 52nd
Street, which was really quite a music scene in that period. Who were some of
the other musicians who were playing near where you were playing?

Mr. JONES: Well, right across the street was a club called the Three Deuces. I
was working as with Hot Lips Page - Oran Hot Lips Page, at a place called - not
the Cedar Gardens - the Onyx Club.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: And right across the street, on 52nd Street, was a club called the
Three Deuces. Well, over there you had Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max,
Roach, Bud Powell, sometimes Al Haig, sometimes, Stan Levey on drums, and they
were all about the same age. Dizzy was a little older. Dizzy - Dizzy Gillespie,
that is - had a big band about that time, and the big band had broken up into a
small group, and the small group was playing at the Three Deuces. They were
playing this new style of music called bebop, a term that I have never been
really happy with. But I guess it described the music pretty much, but not

Anyway, this is the kind of - the style of music these people were playing. I
was attracted by it. I thought it was an advance over what I'd been hearing
previously to that time. So, I - unconsciously, perhaps, or maybe consciously -
began to adapt some of this style into my own style of playing, which was
basically a two-handed style, perhaps in the style of Teddy Wilson, Fats Waller
at the time.

GROSS: Did you go through a period of frustration in which you were trying to
adapt your style to this new bebop sound and, I mean, was there a period when
you couldn't quite figure out what - like, how to get it?

Mr. JONES: It meant that I had to listened to these things repeatedly over time
and perhaps, night after night, as long as I could. Because, you see, between
the sets that I played at the Onyx Club and the sets that the other club was
playing across the street, I had to - there was maybe - what? Maybe 20 minutes
between. So I had to go over and listen in 20 minutes as hard as I could for
several times during the night. And that way, at the end of the night, I'd have
a pretty good idea of what was going on. I still couldn't play it, because I
was still absorbing this style in my mind, you know. It took quite a while. It
didn't happen overnight, and I sure don't really - I haven't mastered it yet,

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Let's hear a recording that you made with Charlie Parker, and this is
from 1952. We'll hear "This Song is You," and it features you, Parker and Max
Roach on drums.

(Soundbite of song, "This Song is You")

GROSS: We heard my guest Hank Jones at the piano, with Charlie Parker. So, Hank
Jones, when you were starting to record and when you moved to New York, how old
were your brothers Elvin and Thad, and at what stage in their musical
development were they?

Mr. JONES: Well, Elvin and Thad were both in Detroit at the time I came to New
York, and they were working at a club called the Blue Bird. I think it was on
Grand River Avenue. And they were working with musicians the likes of J.J.
Johnson, Sonny Stitt, maybe even at times Charlie Parker, people like that who
came through Detroit to play. And Blue Bird was the club to play at, because it
was one of the best-known - probably the best-known jazz club in Detroit at the
time. And they were the house band there, so they had to play with all these
people that came through to play at the club. So by the time they got to New
York, they were already fairly familiar with the New York jazz scene, having
heard all these people in Detroit, you see? So...

GROSS: And, as the older brother, what kind of advice or help did you try to
give them when they were young?

Mr. JONES: Well, I guess I told them the same things that my father tried to
tell me. You know, stay clear of all of these vicious habits that people get
into that their health - that deprive you of your health, eventually probably,
your life, as well.

And this is what happened to some of the younger musicians who came to New York
and fell into that kind of thing. Probably they were unable - see, if they had
been able to resist that first attempt or that first trial, they might've
steered clear of it. But a lot of them couldn't resist. They wanted to try
something new. So by the time they tried something new, it got to be a habit.
And when it became a habit, they were slaves to the habit and it took them
down. This happened to a few young players, unfortunately. But I tried to tell
Thad and Elvin about things like this, because I'd seen it happen.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JONES: And I had managed to steer clear of it myself because I had no
desire to go that route. So they - I guess they listened, at least partially,
and it probably helped them. At least I hope it did.

GROSS: I believe while you were in New York, that Art Tatum became something of
a mentor to you. How well did you know him? What was your relationship to him?

Mr. JONES: I had met Art when he was playing in Buffalo. When I was playing at
the Anchor Bar across town in Buffalo, there was a place called McVan's,
another night club, and Art used to play there periodically during the year and
a half I spent in Buffalo. And whenever he would come into town to play, after
our last set at the Anchor Bar, we'd go over and catch his last set. And I got
to hear a lot of Art Tatum in Buffalo.

After I finished playing at McVan's, he would often go to a restaurant down in
Midtown or somebody's home - somebody would invite them to come to his home to
play, and he would play until the early hours of the morning - or to say maybe
the late hours, maybe 11 or 12 o'clock the next day. That's how he played. He
liked to play like that. This happened almost every time I heard him play
there. And he would invariably have a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer - maybe I
shouldn't mention that. But anyway, he'd have a case of...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: Too late. He would always have a bottle of beer in his hand, or not
when he was playing, of course, but after he finished playing. But he liked to
drink beer at that time.

GROSS: So what was your relationship with him? Were...

Mr. JONES: Well, I had met him and, of course, I was fascinated. I was - what's
the word? I was enthralled. I couldn't believe it. I, you know, I look at him
and I'd say it's impossible to do what he's doing. But I'm listening and I'm
sitting there and I'm looking at him and I'm watching him do it, and I still
don't believe it. And, but it was just - it was almost magic. It was really
magic, the things that he could do on the piano, and up until his demise, he
was fantastic. He was, undoubtedly, the true genius that you hear the name
flouted around so much. Art Tatum was a true genius.

GROSS: We're listening back to an interview with Hank Jones. He died yesterday
at the age of 91. We'll hear more of the interview after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: We're remembering jazz pianist Hank Jones. He died yesterday at the age
of 91. He and his brothers - drummer Elvin Jones and trumpeter Thad Jones -
became one of the most illustrious families in jazz history.

Let's get to our 2005 interview with Hank Jones.

Now, I know you met Thelonious Monk. I don't know how close you ever got to
him. But when you first heard his playing, did it sound wrong to you? You know,
because he was playing dissonances that most people would've thought of as

Mr. JONES: Yeah.

GROSS: And he was playing these kinds of, like, erratic rhythms that didn't fit
the predictable rhythm patterns that people were playing. So did you get it
right away, or did sound wrong to you?

Mr. JONES: Well, it never sounded wrong to me. It sounded different, and I -
even the dissidences that he played, they were intentional, you know. So I - to
me, it sounded, like, okay, he wanted to prove something musically, and this
was the only way to do it. If you played conventional harmony at that point, it
wouldn't have had the impact. So he used the dissidences to emphasize what he
was doing.

GROSS: What impact did it have on you to hear him?

Mr. JONES: Well, it left a very, you know, I was in awe of what he was doing,
because I had never heard anybody who thought, musically, in that way - used
intentional dissonance. Oh, some composers have used it, but not to the extent
that Monk used it. Monk used it on every composition he played. If he played
"Body and Soul" or any ballad, you could tell immediately that it was Monk
because his stamp was on it, the way he voiced his chords, his choice of
chords, his choice of harmonic patterns and so forth, this was distinctive. You
know, he was a stylist. He was an individual with a style that was just almost
impossible to imitate.

GROSS: Now from 1959 to '76 you worked as a staff pianist for CBS Television
and Radio. The show that you played for included "The Ed Sullivan Show." What

Mr. JONES: "Gary Moore Show," "Jackie Gleeson" and two radio shows and some
television shows that didn’t make it. And also, there was a television show
called "American Musical Theater." Well, I conducted that show a couple of
times, you know. But they played mostly classical music on that show. But the
other shows: "The Ed Sullivan Show," the "Jackie Gleeson Show" and the "Gary
Moore Show," were variety shows, that is they had comedians, they had dancers,
they had singers, they had dog acts, sometimes elephant acts...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: ...and so forth, you know.

GROSS: Oh yeah, people juggling plates and all that stuff.

Mr. JONES: Like all - exactly.

GROSS: So you had to play for the elephant acts, and the people juggling
plates, and walking to the tight rope, and for Ella Fitzgerald probably and...

Mr. JONES: Yeah.

GROSS: Was that fun?

Mr. JONES: It was, but it was interesting, you know, because from week to week
you never knew quite what you were going to have to do that particular week.
You found out during rehearsals, but sometimes things happened during the show
that didn’t happen at the rehearsal. Sometimes you had to improvise some things
that something might go wrong during a live show. See, if it happened during a
taped show you could always stop the tape. But if it happened during a live
show you have to improvise as you go along.

GROSS: You did a lot of session work too. Did you record on any records that
became big hits but nobody really knows that you were the pianist on the

Mr. JONES: I don’t believe so. Not offhand. I've done some things with Ella
Fitzgerald that almost everything she did was a hit record.

GROSS: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Mr. JONES: And, of course, I recorded quite a bit with her. Also, I was lucky
enough to work with Marilyn Monroe. Now ordinarily, she not considered to be a
singer, but she did sing very well. She was...

GROSS: I actually like her singing. Yeah.

Mr. JONES: ...primarily an actress. I had the occasion of playing for her when
she sang "Happy Birthday" and "Thanks for the Memories" for President Kennedy
at Madison Square...

GROSS: That was you at the piano?

Mr. JONES: That's right. And we - I tell you, she did 16 bars: eight bars of
"Happy Birthday to You" and eight bars of "Thanks for the Memories." So in 16
bars, we rehearsed eight hours. So I think that's something like a half-hour
for a bar of music, you know. She was very nervous and upset. She wasn't used
to that kind of thing. And, I guess, who wouldn't be nervous singing "Happy
Birthday" to the president.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. JONES: And she got through it very well, I think. But it was a very trying

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Okay. Well, we have this on CD, so let's hear it, Marilyn Monroe with my
guest, Hank Jones at the piano - singing to the president.

(Soundbite of song, "Happy Birthday to You")

Ms. MARILYN MONROE (Actress): (Singing) Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday
to you. Happy Birthday, Mr. President. Happy Birthday to you.

(Soundbite of applause)

GROSS: Marilyn Monroe serenading the president with my guest, Hank Jones, at
the piano. Hank Jones, you know, we were about how you played at CBS for many
years and did a lot of studio work. What was your reaction to John Coltrane's
music when your brother Elvin Jones was the drummer with Coltrane? And, you
know, Coltrane had been doing a lot of pretty far out experimentation playing -
playing very free.

Mr. JONES: Yes.

GROSS: Did you relate to that?

Mr. JONES: Well, to tell you the truth, I didn’t relate to it very well. It was
an approach that I had heard but I had sort of rejected. Because I had been
listening - yeah, you have to understand, I had been listening to people like
Lester Young, Chu Berry, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker and this was quite a
field from what John Coltrane was doing. I understood what he was doing, but I
just didn’t agree with it, musically, at the time. Later, I began to accept it,
I think, more. And, of course, Elvin, my brother was with the band so I had
another reason for listening to it more carefully, you know, and it began to
make more sense to me as time went on. And I think it did. But it took a little
bit of time for me to get use to it.

GROSS: You didn’t record a lot with your brothers but what was it like when you
did play with them, with Elvin and Thad Jones? Was there any kind of special
connection? I mean your were older than they were, so I don’t know if you
played together much as kids.

Mr. JONES: Well, we didn’t play very much as kids because remember, I left the
Pontiac scene and the Michigan scene years before they did, maybe 10 years.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JONES: I had been in New York for almost 10 years before Thad and Elvin
came. Although, you know, when I first got to New York I mentioned their names
to people like Leonard Feather and some others and they were included in
Leonard Feather's, one of his books. Their names were in his book long before
they got to New York, you know. But they, so they were not strangers when they
arrived there. And, of course, they had already played with some of these
people who had come through Detroit and played at the Blue Bird.

But we didn’t play together because we just were not at the same place at the
same time. And our musical tastes differed somewhat, but in many ways they were
very similar. But it was just a question of being in the same place at the same
time, and we just, unfortunately, we were not. We did three things together,
three - two record dates. And, of course, I had played down at the Village
Vanguard for a time with The Thad Jones and Mel Lewis Band and I had to cut
that short because it didn’t coincide with my CBS schedule. I couldn’t stay up
all night and then work all day at CBS so I had to give it up. But we didn’t
play together as often as I'd like to have and that's unfortunate because now
it's impossible.

GROSS: Did you feel like there was any kind of special connection when you did
play together?

Mr. JONES: Yes I did. I thought there was. There was always something special
and that’s one of the reasons why I regret that we didn’t do more of it. I'm
truly sorry about that.

GROSS: We're listening back to an interview with pianist Hank Jones. He died
yesterday at the age of 91.

We'll hear more of that interview after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: We're remembering jazz pianist Hank Jones. He died yesterday at the age
of 91. He and his brothers, drummer Elvin Jones and trumpeter Thad Jones,
became one of the most illustrious families in jazz history.

Let's get back to our 2005 interview with Hank Jones.

GROSS: the jazz critic Whitney Balliett, who's quite a fan, as you know of your
playing, once wrote: Jones' solos think. And then you once told Whitney
Balliett, concentration is the difference between the great players and the
players who are not great. Do you think when you’re soloing?

Mr. JONES: Well, yes you do. You know, but see your thoughts are running ahead.
Let's see, if you could separate your thoughts from your actions, they're tied
together, of course, but your thoughts are ahead of what you actually do,
because by the time you get to the place, your thoughts - see your thoughts are
maybe four or five bars ahead of where you actually are, physically, at the
piano. So by the time you get there, you’ve already played what you thought,
like four seconds, five seconds before that, you see? In other words, you’re
thinking ahead. So yes, you’re concentrating and you’re thinking.

GROSS: You know, a lot of people might think oh it’s just intuitive.

Mr. JONES: I think that plays a part of it, but it's certainly not the main

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JONES: You have to know what you’re doing. In order to know what you’re
doing you have to think about it, you know.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Mr. JONES: So, you know, you have to - first of all, you have to know the music
that you’re playing. You have to know the tune that you’re playing. You have to
know what the chord progressions are and then okay. Now the improvisations are
intuitive. Of course, the intuition is based on prior knowledge isn't it? I
mean how can you be intuitive if you don’t have some prior knowledge of what
you’re doing? So the prior knowledge always comes into play there. You must
have thought of it before that.

GROSS: As you approach your 87th birthday, does it surprise you that you’ve,
you know, outlived and outlived for years, your younger brothers Elvin and

Mr. JONES: Well, I don’t know. I tell you, it's certainly disheartening. But I
don’t know. I don’t know whether I should feel surprised or not. I've always
lived my life a certain way. I don’t - perhaps, my life style has something to
do with my longevity. Hopefully it did. But, you know, nobody lives forever, of
course, and maybe it was just their time and it's not my time yet, you know? I
intend to go on for until I'm 250. I'm working on that now, actively.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: I hope to play better than I played the last time. That's my
objective: to always do better, to reach another level, a higher level.

GROSS: Does mean that you’re still practicing? I mean do you still like
practice at home?

Mr. JONES: Oh, of course. Oh, of course. Yes. I don’t see how anybody can do
without practicing, you know? I do...

GROSS: What do you do when you practice now?

Mr. JONES: I do scales, exercises and I try to learn new material.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. JONES: And review old material. You see, I try to be conversant with the
piano. You have to be on good speaking terms with the piano or the piano will
rebuff you, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. JONES: I've heard the piano described as a man-eating monster with black
and white teeth. And it’s true.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Well, thank you so much for talking with us. It's been wonderful to talk
with you.

Mr. JONES: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

GROSS: Pianist Hank Jones recorded in 2005. He died yesterday at the age of 91.

You can download Podcasts of our show on our website,

(Soundbite of music)

I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: On the next FRESH AIR, New York Times reporter Scott Shane tells the
story of the American-born Muslim cleric known to have inspired the Time Square
bomber and the Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood. Once seen
as a leader of moderate Islam, he's now a Jihadist hiding in Yemen; regarded as
so dangerous he's targeted for killing by the CIA.

Join us.

(Soundbite of music)

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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