Earl "Fatha" Hines
One of the greatest jazz pianists in history, Earl “Fatha” Hines (1903-1983) always sounded ahead of his time, whether it was 1928 or 1968. While his right hand often played octaves that rang out like a trumpet, his left tended to break up the stride rhythm and suspend time in what seemed to be a reckless manner, but he always found the beat in time.
Hines had a lengthy and episodic career. Born in Pittsburgh, he played trumpet briefly before settling on the piano. In 1922 he made his first recordings with vocalist Lois Deppe. Hines moved to Chicago in 1923, working with Sammy Stewart and Erskine Tate’s Vendome Theatre Orchestra. Hines became close friends with Louis Armstrong and they worked together in Carroll Dickerson’s Orchestra. In a remarkable burst of activity in 1928, Hines worked and recorded with Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra, recorded a series of masterpieces with Louis Armstrong’s Savoy Ballroom Five (including “West End Blues” and the trumpet-piano duet “Weatherbird”), recorded a series of stunning piano solos, and formed his own big band.
The Earl Hines Orchestra was based for years in Chicago’s Grand Terrace Ballroom. The orchestra evolved from a classic jazz band to a top-notch swing orchestra and, during 1943, an unrecorded bebop big band featuring Charlie Parker (on tenor), Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, and Billy Eckstine. Hines kept the orchestra together until 1948 when he broke it up and spent three years traveling the world with the Louis Armstrong All-Stars.
During much of the 1950s and early ’60s, Hines led a Dixieland band in San Francisco. His piano playing was always much more modern as he showed on Another Monday Date which reissues albums from 1955-1956, a Fats Waller tribute, and a dazzling solo piano recital. 1961’s A Monday Date is a more Dixieland-oriented set with trombonist Jimmy Archey and clarinetist Darnell Howard.
In 1964 Earl Hines had an unexpected breakthrough, playing a concert at the Little Theater that resulted in him getting a great deal of publicity from New York critics. The remainder of his career was very busy as he worked constantly as a soloist and with combos, never coasting and constantly stretching himself.