Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Earl Kenneth Hines, 28 Dec. '03, Duquesne PA; d 22 April '83, Oakland CA) Pianist, bandleader, songwriter, occasional singer; aka 'Fatha'. He had four careers: he became world-famous with Louis Armstrong and Jimmie Noone and as a soloist in Chicago in '20s; led excellent big bands '28-47; was slowly reduced to playing dixieland in West Coast clubs, then rediscovered as a soloist in the early '60s and astonished the world with his joyous, swinging technique until a week before he died, one of the finest piano stylist of the century. He began playing with bands in Pittsburgh '18 (Duquesne is a suburb or district of Pittsburgh); he was spotted by singer Lois Deppe, toured with her '23; with Armstrong's Chicago Stompers at Sunset Cafe in Chicago '27: recorded 'Chicago Breakdown' with ten-piece group in May '27; then 19 sides with Armstrong and his Hot Five, Savoy Ballroom Five, etc all in '28, all now available in Armstrong collections, including the classic duet 'Weather Bird', with just trumpet and piano. About 17 sides (some now lost) were made with five/six-piece Jimmie Noone's Apex Club Orchestra May--Aug. '28. The first records under his own name were eight piano solos for QRS Dec. '28 (the piano roll company, which also made records), incloding his own tunes 'Blues In Thirds' (aka 'Caution Blues'), 'A Monday Date', '57 Varieties'; complete piano solos to '40 on Collector's Classics CD were transferred by John R. T. Davies. Like Armstrong, he invented a style more revolutionary than we can now appreciate: he played rhythmic patterns in his left hand which were an advance over those in ragtime or stride piano; in the right hand he played melody lines high in the treble, perhaps to carry over the sound of a band: this was called 'trumpet style'.

This extrovert technique helped make him an excellent bandleader: he recorded with a ten-piece band early '29 which grew into a full-size 'swing band' before the term was used; broadcasts through the '30s from the Grand Terrace ballroom in Chicago of what was called 'western swing' (as opposed to NYC styles) had their impact on the jazz incubator that was Kansas City at the time. He got his nickname 'Fatha' from a radio announcer. 'At the Grand Terrace, I couldn't afford to buy stars, so I had to find them,' he said; a great talent scout, he hired first-class men like trumpeters Shirley Clay (b '02, Charleston MO; d 7 Feb. '51, NYC), Freddy Webster (b '16, Cleveland OH; d 1 April '47, Chicago), Walter Fuller (b 15 Feb. '10, Dyersburg TN; d 20 April 2003, San Diego CA; also sang); Trummy Young on trombone (b James Osborne Young, 12 Jan. '12, Savannah GA; d 10 Sep. '84, San Jose CA; also sang; later with Jimmie Lunceford, Armstrong's All-Stars), also Budd Johnson, Darnell Howard, Omer Simeon, Ray Nance, Marshal Royal, bassist Truck Parham (d 5 June 2002 in Chicago aged 91), singer Herb Jeffries. He bought arrangements from Horace Henderson, Jimmy Mundy, Eddie Durham, Edgar Battle, Johnson, others; disbanded '40 (perhaps to escape the clutches of Chicago gangsters), re-forming the same year on the West Coast. Hiring the best, he inevitably had an incubator of bop in mid-'40s with men like Bennie Green, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Billy Eckstine, Willie Cook, Wardell Gray. Three two-disc French RCA sets The Indispensable Earl Hines '39-66 included hits 'Boogie Woogie On St Louis Blues', 'Jelly, Jelly' (Eckstine vocal), 'Stormy Monday Blues', 'Second Balcony Jump', also all on Piano Man on Bluebird. Earl Hines And The Duke's Men on Delmark compiles '44 and '47 tracks made for Apollo. He disbanded '47, joined Armstrong's All-Stars '48-51, led his own small groups at the Hangover Club in San Francisco, toured Europe with a group co-led by Jack Teagarden '57 and ran his own club in Oakland '63; Live At The Crescendo on GNP included Muggsy Spanier, etc.

Engagements at the Little Theatre in NYC '64 resulted in his rediscovery: he toured with a trio or quartet often including Johnson, made scores of LPs in his last 25 years including priceless solo sets: his style hadn't changed; he could metaphorically walk a tightrope without falling off, like Art Tatum, but wit and beauty always triumphed over technique for its own sake. Blues And Things '67 was a quartet with an excellent Budd Johnson (see his entry), Jimmy Rushing guesting on four tracks, on a New World CD '97. Small-group sets on Chiaroscuro included At The Overseas Press Club '70 with Maxine Sullivan; Back On The Street '73 with Jonah Jones; An Evening With The Earl Hines Quartet '73, with vocalist Marva Josie; A Buck Clayton Jam Session '74. But the solo albums on the same label were a revelation. Quintessential Recording Session '69 revisited the eight selections from the Dec. '28 session for QRS, and demonstrated what a great musician Hines really was: the '28 cuts had been brilliant, but episodic; he had never stopped learning, the years as a bandleader being especially fruitful, and now he became a whole orchestra by himself, the episodes come together as tone poems. More solo albums '73-4 were Live At The New School, Quintessential Continued and Quintessential 1974, Earl Hines In New Orleans '77 (the latter superbly issued on CD with five new tracks).

Solo sets on other labels included Tea For Two '65 on Black Lion, produced by Alan Bates (title cut a daring masterpiece); I've Got The World On A String '66 on the Italian Joker label; Dinah '66 on RCA made in Paris; Earl Hines At Home c'70 on Delmark, taped in Earl's home by Wayne Farlow, with a charming vocal on 'It Happens To Be Me'; Solo Walk In Tokyo '72 on Biograph. Another priceless series was originally on Audiophile: My Tribute To Louis Armstrong, Hines Comes In Handy (songs by W.C. Handy) and Hines Does Hoagy (Carmichael), all made in two days in July '71, a few days after Armstrong died, all compiled '97 as Four Jazz Giants on two-CD Solo Art set. Four LPs of Duke Ellington songs recorded '71-5 have been reissued as three CDs on New World Records ('C-Jam Blues' another exhilarating high-wire act), Plays Cole Porter '74 was only available in Australia until '96, then on New World; and two volumes of Plays George Gershwin recorded in Italy '73 were combined on a Musidisc CD. The Complete Master Jazz Piano Series on Mosaic (four-CD set) included an entire CD of Hines solos '69-72 (plus rare sessions by ten other pianists). There are many more Hines compilations and reissues, every one a joy; through it all the spirit of a loveable man shines in the music. He also contributed to the Ry Cooder album Jazz, etc; his compositions included his best-known song 'Rosetta' c'32 (but said to have actually been written by Henri Woodes).