Sir Roland Hanna was one of the major figures in jazz. His diverse experience as a musician (pianist and cellist), composer, arranger, teacher, diplomat, and humanitarian made him a dynamic driving force in the development of the art form.
Born in Detroit in 1932, Hanna's first musical influence was the gospel and rythm and blues heard in his preacher father's church. This was coupled with formal training in classical piano from an early age. His musical evolution continued beyond graduation from Cass Technical High School and through a two year assignment in the United States Army Band. After the army, he studied at the Eastman School and then Julliard. In 1958 he played with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, appearing at the Newport Jazz Festival and on a European tour ending at the Brussels World's Fair. In 1959, he played with Charles Mingus at the Half Note.
During the sixties, he traveled the world appearing with major orchestras, leading his own group, or performing as a soloist. In 1969, he embarked on a benefit tour in Africa for music students. In recognition of his humanitarian efforts for education in Africa, he was knighted by Liberian President William Tubman in 1970.
His amazingly varied career includes serving as Sarah Vaugh's musical director, anchoring the Rosengarden Orchestra on the Dick Cavett show, touring with a classical quartet performing his cello compostitions, forming the New York Jazz Quartet, while writing over 400 compositions and recording over 40 albums.