John Hanna was born 4 April 1931, Roxbury, Massachusetts, USA.
He began playing drums in a marching band at the age of five in Dorchester, Massachusetts. In his youth he played in and around the Boston area, a territory where many fine jazz musician were to be found. During the late '40s and early '50s he played in bands led by Tommy Reed and Ted Weems; in the late '50s h worked with pianists Marion McPartland and Toshiko Akiyoshi, and in the big bands of Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman. He rejoined Herman in 1962, staying for two years in the band. Otherwise flitted briefly through the bands of Duke Ellington, Harry James and Boston-based teacher and rehearsal band pioneer Herb Pomeroy. What Hanna has described as the best time in his life came when he played with George Wein's band at the impresario's Storyville Club in Boston. In the band were Buck Clayton, Bud Freeman, Pee Wee Russell and Vic Dickenson with Jimmy Rushing on vocals. In 1964 Hanna became a member of the studio band for the Merv Griffin television show, the based in New York.
When the show moved to California, Hanna was one of several musicians who were given the opportunity of moving with it, provided they made their minds up fast. Along with Bill Berry, Richie Kamuca and others, Hanna made the snap decision and ever since has been located on the west coast, even though the Griffin job ended in 1975. Since then he has worked with numerous bands, including Supersax, Count Basie, Herman, Berry, and co-led an occasional small group with Carl Fontana. Although highly skilled in all aspects of his work, Hanna is one of the most self-effacing drummers in jazz, happy to urge a band along with subtilety and discret dynamics.
Any band with which he played is guaranteed to swing and to have a good time because, apart from his superb musicianship, Hanna was also a witty and gifted raconteur.
Scott Yanow /AMG):
A superior drummer equally at ease driving a big band or playing in small mainstream combos, Jake Hanna has been a strong asset to a countless number of sessions. He started out playing locally in Boston and worked with Toshiko Akiyoshi (1957), Maynard Ferguson (1958), as the house drummer at Storyville in Boston, with Marian McPartland (1959-1961), and most significantly with the Woody Herman Orchestra (1962-1964). As a studio musician, he was a regular member of the Merv Griffin television program's big band (1964-1975), moving with the show to Los Angeles (1970) where he remained. Hanna co-led a group with Carl Fontana that recorded for Concord in 1975, played with Supersax, and went on to appear on many mainstream and swing sessions, becoming a fixture at jazz parties and festivals. He has recorded many dates (mostly as a sideman) for Concord.
Jake died February 12, 2010 from complications of a blood disease.