NPR’s Fresh Air: A Look at Earl Hines and our New Box Set
It’s always nice to have the Fresh Air crew examine one of our sets. In this edition, Kevin Whitehead looks at the Earl Hines set, while focusing in on recordings Hines made as soloist and as the leader of some distinct big bands.
-Scott WenzelRead More
Earl Hines On NPR
One of our most current releases, Classic Earl Hines Sessions 1928-1945, gets the Fresh Air treatment over NPR stations hosted by Kevin Whitehead. He captures the essence of this set zeroing in on Earl’s solo work as well as discussing the diversities of each of the big bands.
-Michael CuscunaRead More
Earl Hines:The Most Influential Jazz Pianist. Ever!
Schools need teachers. Traditions require rules. Movements need leaders — someone has to first say, “Follow me. Here’s how it’s done.”
There are only a few names in jazz we can count among those teachers. The true originals. One the most important is Earl Hines. And in our new Mosaic Records Limited Edition 7 CD Box Set, you will find his rules.
For the first time ever, you can own a set that brings together his important work as a leader and soloist spanning 1928 to 1945. This unprecedented collection draws from all the important labels that recorded him — OKeh, Victor, Brunswick, Vocalion, Bluebird and Signature. And to our delight, as we combed through the vault at Sony where all these masters now reside, we discovered 11 tracks that have never appeared anywhere.
Not only do the songs reveal how strikingly new his concept was when he first burst on the scene, but how it developed across his solo work, with duos and trios, small combos, and his big band.
-Alan Goodman, Mosaic Records BrochureRead More
Earl Hines - Cavernism
1933 was a significant year for the Earl Hines band. In addition to adding the individualistic talents of trombonist Trummy Young, there was the tenor sax and arranging skills of Jimmy Mundy. Mundy’s contributions to Swing Era arranging cannot be overlooked. Rotted in the early prototypes of Don Redman and Fletcher Henderson, Mundy’s charts were a key element of the success of the Benny Goodman band (and swing as the popular music of the day) during its first few years of life (joining the King in 1935).
“Cavernism”, a tribute to the Crystal Caverns, a Washington D.C. based club where Mundy played tenor with the Tommy Myles’ outfit, is as Gunther Schuller points out, “…a major creative breakthrough for the band, determining its future style for many years to come”. This is prime example of how a more sophisticated sound the Hines band had achieved through a Mundy score.
This version, the master take issued on Brunswick 6541, gives us a feeling right from the start that this will build into an excited musical journey. Hines paves the way with a brief intro into the melody by the saxes (love that catchy trill that is employed). Solo honors go to a muted trumpet solo by Walter Fuller which is followed by a beauty of a solo brought forth by the violin of a forgotten figure by the name of Darnell Howard. (Although one can find a number of solos by this time via recordings by Joe Venuti, Eddie South, Stuff Smith, Stephane Grappelli and Ray Nance, another Hines alumni - it was still a rarity in jazz improvisation to hear this instrumental voice during the ‘20s and ‘30s). Howard’s solo is wonderfully executed and is actually topped by an alternate take that came out on an Epic LP approximately 25 years later. (Both of these takes are on the Mosaic set)
Then Hines…well, he’s the Fatha! Just before the bridge of his solo we hear one of his patented left hand glissandos rolling upward in addition to those suspended stops and starts which were hallmarks of his radical style. The background figures Hines employs as the band walks you off the floor are equally exciting and it serves to keep the wheels in motion until the final breaks are put to this early Swing classic.
-Scott WenzelView Video
Earl Hines – Harlem Lament
Again from the 1933 band we hear how brilliant and original Earl Hines was as a pianist. In The Swing Era, a musically and historically thorough document by Gunther Schuller, the master take of “Harlem Lament” is dissected in great detail. Schuller writes, “…(“Harlem Lament”) is remarkable for one of Hines’ most spectacular solos from this period and for Quinn Wilson’s exceptional arrangement. Spare and lightly scored in the first part, Wilson contrasts this with an unusually compact, tightly voiced full ensemble in the final chorus, where the admixture of trumpets, trombones and saxophones is so well blended that one can barely distinguish the various choirs”.
As for the Hines piano, he continues “Hines compresses more ideas into a 32-bar solo than most pianists can manage in an entire evening. As in a perfectly trained race horse, Hines’ capacities are at all times working at maximum speed, double that of most musicians of his generation”. One has to consider, without belittling the complexities of let’s say a brass or reed instrument where you play one note with two hands, that Hines singular style is so striking on a piano where you can play four notes with two hands. To further observe this statement, Schuller writes, “Hines is constantly engaging both hands in competitive exchanges or various dialogues. His mind (and figures) are continually driven towards complexity – rhythmic and contrapuntal complexity”.
Hines serves not only a memorable piano solo but in his obbligato to trumpeter Charlie Allen’s statement of the second half of the theme. It’s an essential component of an accompanist to know just how much to lay a musical bed for a soloist without having it sound like the springs are getting in the way. Here the trumpet solo is quite simple and Earl knows how to get the right amount of ideas across in his conversation with “straight man” Allen.
If you want to hear more of this, a previously unissued alternate take is offered on our Mosaic set, although as Brian Priestley writes in the notes for our set, the alternate has a “slightly less florid piano work, (but) is an unexpected bonus.
-Scott WenzelView Video