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Album Review

This segment of the Earl Hines chronology finds the pianist leading smaller ensembles rather than the big band for which he had become famous throughout the 1930s and early '40s. Back in Chicago during December of 1947, Hines cut a handful of sides for the diminutive Sunrise record label. "Blues for Garroway" features the electrified guitar of Skeeter Best and Morris Lane's smooth tenor sax. "Honeysuckle Rose" is rendered by the interesting combination of organ, piano, sax, and violin, almost like gentle salon or chamber music. That's Eddie South on the fiddle, and Hines plays what sounds like an upright piano. "Dark Eyes" spotlights the viol with bass and piano accompaniment. Hines spent the last day of 1947 making six more records for Sunrise. The pianist sings a spruced-up version of "Sheik of Araby," proudly referring to himself as "streamlined" and quoting from "I'se A-Muggin'" as a lead-in to a duet with Wini Brown. The next three tracks have bluesy vocals by trumpeter Duke Garrette, but the most interesting components are Eddie South, alto saxophonist Bobby Plater, and young bassist Charles Mingus, whose solo on the "No Good Woman Blues" is tasty. Mr. Ming also mingles with the Earl behind rockin' vocals by Wini Brown and the band on "Bama Lama-Lam," a jump tune spiced with Garrette's trumpet and the baritone sax of Charlie Fowlkes. The rolling "Spooky Boogie" might be the coolest tune in the whole package, as all four horns, Mingus, and South each really strut their stuff. These last two titles were issued under the name of Curley Hamner & His Orchestra, although why Hamner — also listed in discographies as Hamer and Hammer — was designated as the leader is anybody's guess. If the Classics chronology is accurate, Earl Hines wasn't able to record again until December of the following year, this time for the MGM label in New York. Hines' "Swingtette" consisted of himself, guitarist Floyd Smith, bassist Arvell Shaw, and percussionist supreme Sidney Catlett. "Lazy Mornin'" is a very slow essay made of lovely tones, and the other three tunes sizzle merrily. Hines' next recording gig was in Paris on November 4, 1949, waxing eight sides for the Royal Jazz label. Forming a trio with Arvell Shaw and Wallace Bishop, Hines produced a lovely version of his own composition "I Never Dreamt," then augmented a lively number called "Snappy Rhythm" with actual finger snaps and some wild arpeggios spanning several octaves up and down the piano keyboard. Adding Buck Clayton and Barney Bigard on the same date, Hines now had a quintet with which to relax and cook up a series of fresh interpretations of old-fashioned melodies, along with "Night Life in Pompeii," a minor dance that seems to have been created especially for the marvelous clarinet artistry of Barney Bigard.


Born: December 28, 1905 in Duquesne, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

Once called "the first modern jazz pianist," Earl Hines differed from the stride pianists of the 1920s by breaking up the stride rhythms with unusual accents from his left hand. While his right hand often played octaves so as to ring clearly over ensembles, Hines had the trickiest left hand in the business, often suspending time recklessly but without ever losing the beat. One of the all-time great pianists, Hines was a major influence on Teddy Wilson, Jess Stacy, Joe Sullivan, Nat King Cole, and...
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