A MAN OF VIOLENT ENTHUSIASMS: EARL HINES PLAYS FATS WALLER (Nice, July 22, 1975)

In his sixty-year performing career, Earl Hines was never characterized as a timid improviser. No, he was daring — that he had a piano in front of him rather than a machete was only the way the Fates had arranged it. Dick Wellstood called him, “Your Musical Host, serving up the hot sauce,” and that’s apt. Whether the listener perceives it as the freedom to play whatever occurred to him or a larger musical surrealism, it was never staid.

Later in life, Hines had (like his colleague Teddy Wilson) various medleys and tributes that could form a set program for an evening, but he improvised, even within set routines. The listener was in the grip of joyous turbulence, and Hines’ showmanship was always part of the show. Here, first solo and then accompanied by Harley White, string bass, and Eddie Graham, drums, he plays music composed by and associated with his friend Fats Waller. Make sure your seat belt is low and tight across your hips before we start.

Photograph by David Redfern

The songs are BLACK AND BLUE / TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE / AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ / JITTERBUG WALTZ / SQUEEZE ME / HONEYSUCKLE ROSE . . . and each of them has its possibilities examined, shaken, stirred, and offered to us in the most multi-colored way. And, yes, my mixing of metaphors is an intentional bow to the Fatha:

Hines told more than one interviewer that his flashing “trumpet style” of playing — octaves and single-note lines exploding like fireworks — was born out of necessity, his desire to be heard over the band. He kept to that path even when no band was present, and it’s dazzling.

May your happiness increase!

5 responses to “A MAN OF VIOLENT ENTHUSIASMS: EARL HINES PLAYS FATS WALLER (Nice, July 22, 1975)

  1. Richard McNeil

    Was Jonah Jones in the group Playing thee above tunes.

  2. Personnel as listed: solo piano then joined by bass and drums. No Jonah.

  3. Saw Earl Hines in London at the 100 Club in 1965. Fabulous performance.

  4. I heard “Fatha” live in 1977. Most of the concert was devoted to “the show” — vocal features, sax features, glow-in-the-dark drum sticks — but thankfully, on one solo number, he transported the audience back to Chicago in the late 1920s.

  5. Absolutely breathtaking.

    Every “modern” pianist — from Bud Powell to Keith Jarret and Bill Evans, to this day — emerges from Hines whether they realize it or not. The horn-like right hand lines and flourishes, the dynamism.

    The 1920’s duets with Louis are inscribed into the Akashic records of human creativity.

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