So Far Away

Unlike many musicians, studio keyboard player Henry "Hank" Jacobs didn't emerge from the womb with a passion to play. He was 17 when he first ran his fingers over a keyboard. In the early '60s he met songwriter-arranger Kent Harris (previous leader of Boogaloo and his Gallant Crew, who hit the rhythm and blues charts in 1956 rappin' about "Cops and Robbers") and together they made the rounds, working studio sessions in the south in addition to New York, Los Angeles and other cities. They collaborated on Hank's first instrumental single, "Sting Ray," a simmering organ-and-bongo blast on Imperial in 1962.

Jacobs and Harris hooked up with Sue Records owner Juggy Murray in the Big Apple soon after, and the result was "So Far Away," a minor chart single on Sue in January 1964. This instrumental has an atypical sound, as Hank first played piano on the track, then overdubbed it with organ, with the drummer leaning mostly on the cymbals, accentuating the subtle keyboard work. The result is soft yet powerful...after many listens, I've found the song occasionally morphs into something a bit different from what I thought I'd heard before...and back again the next time. Accidental genius? Maybe. At the least, a very cool record. The flip is "Monkey Hips and Rice," less innovative but with more of a party feel. Jacobs and Harris cowrote and arranged both sides.

Hank Jacobs

Other Jacobs efforts for the Sue label didn't stray so far away from the sound of his best-known single; titles include "Bacon Fat," "Heide" and "Playboy's Penthouse." He popped up on piano backing The Ikettes' fall '65 single "I'm So Thankful" at about the same time he began to jam with studio group T-K-O's, enjoying an R&B chart hit on the Ten Star label with another instro groove, "The Fat Man," in March and April '66. On the label of follow-up "The Charge," he was given a byline: T-K-O's with Hank Jacobs at the Organ. Jacobs continued his session work and can be heard tickling the ivories on a number of well-known mid-'60s records, including Bettye Swann's chart-topping 1967 R&B hit "Make Me Yours." Swann, in turn, wrote "Elijah Rockin' With Soul," which became a hot saxophone track on the Call Me label, credited to Hank and anchored by his fast-finger command of the 88 keys.

- Michael Jack Kirby


So Far Away