Roland Hanna, 70, an abundantly talented and tasteful pianist who fit comfortably in the realms of bebop, jazz standards and classical music, died of congestive heart failure Nov. 13 at a hospital in Harris, N.Y. He spent 17 years in Washington before moving to Liberty, N.Y., in 1995.
Mr. Hanna -- who performed as Sir Roland Hanna after the government of Liberia knighted him in 1970 -- had major engagements even while attending the Juilliard School in the late 1950s. He played in bands led by big-band-era clarinetist Benny Goodman and modernist bassist and composer Charles Mingus.
Over the years, he accompanied singers Carmen McRae, Al Hibbler and Sarah Vaughan, for whom he was musical director.
He led small groups at New York's Five Spot club in the early 1960s and then gained a degree of fame as an inventive pianist with the popular Thad Jones-Mel Lewis big band in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
When Mr. Hanna appeared in Washington with the Jones-Lewis outfit in 1973, Washington Post reviewer Hollie I. West wrote that he "offered several solos that were striking for their melodic enterprise. He turned [the Miles Davis tune] 'All Blues' into a tour de force for himself, at one point playing 6/8 against 4/4 time to achieve a quasi-stride piano sound."
He helped found the New York Jazz Quartet in the late 1970s, featuring former Count Basie saxophonist Frank Wess.
He performed in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, a repertory group.
In recent years, he was a music professor at Queens College and toured worldwide. He also wrote compositions for chamber groups and orchestras and played classical cello.
"I try to write music that is of today's idiom," he told National Public Radio. "You know, I borrow certain qualities or sounds from what I hear in the pop world, and I also still have one foot in the 19th century listening to Chopin and Schumann."
Roland Pembrooks Hanna was born in Detroit and studied classical piano until falling in love with the jazz sounds of pianists Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson.
He was considered a leading exponent of the "Detroit school" of jazz piano, blending the speed and complexity of bebop with an elegant touch.
Mr. Hanna was wary of such labeling.
"I don't know anything about a Detroit approach to playing piano," he told the Kansas City Star in 2000. "I didn't make that up, and I don't have anything to do with it. But I do know that there were many, many fine Detroit pianists -- and a number of guys that you probably never heard of, because they didn't leave Detroit."
Liberia knighted him for the benefit concerts he gave there to help build schools.
Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Ramona Woodard Hanna, the former community coordinator for WETA, of Liberty; two sons; two daughters; two sisters; three brothers; and six grandchildren.