[JPL] Hank Kohout, leading pianist for Cleveland jazz bands
drjazz at drjazz.com
Mon Aug 21 18:16:58 EDT 2006
Hank Kohout, leading pianist for Cleveland jazz bands, TV
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Richard M. Peery
Plain Dealer Reporter
Parma- Hank Kohout, who played with musical giants during his six decades
as a jazz pianist, died Monday at his home in Parma. He was 82.
Kohout worked in Cleveland's premier nightclubs. He was with the Bob McKee
Trio at the Theatrical downtown on Short Vincent for 17 years. He also was
a staff musician on radio and television programs, including Mike Douglas'
and Gene Carroll's shows and "The One O'Clock Club."
He was born in Cleveland and attended West Technical High School. He told
jazz writer Joe Mosbrook that he studied classical music for years, until
he heard jazz pianist Teddy Wilson.
"Once I heard Teddy play, I knew what I wanted to do," Kohout said. "I
listened to Teddy's records and tried to copy what he was doing."
Kohout was only 17 when he joined Red Norvo's touring band and played
theaters across the country, including the Apollo and Paramount in New York
City. They appeared with Jimmy Durante, singer Mildred Bailey and other
Before Kohout was 20, Downbeat magazine had called him one of jazz's most
When the band broke up, Kohout played with Norvo at clubs on Manhattan's
52nd Street. He worked with such legends as Milt Hinton, Coleman Hawkins
and Ben Webster.
One night he was playing at the Famous Door Lounge when he was thrilled to
see Wilson in the audience. Kohout was also a fill-in pianist with the
Harry James Orchestra.
He moved back to Cleveland in 1943 to play with the WHK radio orchestra,
which did network broadcasts.
Two years later, he married a singer, Virginia Alverez.
He told Plain Dealer writer Mary Hirshfeld that his fondest memory was
playing with Norvo. When Norvo, the band's vibraharpist, appeared at the
Theatrical in 1977, they had a ball working together for the first time in
In addition to performing at his nightclub jobs, Kohout taught at the
Grabowski Music School in Parma. His performance schedule waned after he
was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the 1990s.
"I can still do it, but if I can't do it the way I want to do it, I don't
want to do it," he told Mosbrook last year.
1923 - 2006
Survivors: wife, Virginia; son, Henry Jr., and daughter, Lisa, both of
Parma; a grandchild; and a brother.
© 2006 The Plain Dealer
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Oak Park, MI 48237
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