The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Voucher Codes

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
The Piano
rare art of ellipsis; and Art Tatum, whose chronological place in this sequence belongs a little farther along.
Though the great pianists of jazz are legion, the number of those who were pace-setters, milestone-makers, is relatively small. After the ragtime archetypes and the stride pioneers, the next giant, emphatic both in his influence and in the vigorous, flamboyantly rhythmic nature of his approach, was Earl "Fatha" Hines. Famous first for the records he made with Louis Armstrong and Jimmie Noone in 1928 and heard in his epochal first solo session during that year, he made dynamic use of octaves in the right hand, often with a tremolo for dramatic sustaining effect, and was capable ambidextrously of tying himself into the most baffling of rhythmic knots and of successfully extricating himself every time. Though "the Houdmi of jazz piano" might have been a more fitting name, he was often called "the trumpet style pianist," because the octaves on single note lines in the right hand, in contrast with the emphasis on chords that had predominated among the ragtimers and early stride pianists, lent the solos a bright and brassy quality that brought to mind the impact of a horn. Actually Hines was much more than a pianist imitating a trumpeter, as the slogan falsely implied. He was essentially pianistic in his approach, in the sense that the left hand, far from playing a subsidiary role, was used more obliquely, with more diligence, taste and technique than had ever been heard in jazz piano before.
Hines* work in the areas of light and shade, of perspective, form and impact, and the influence left in his wake, can find its analogue in the paintings of Giotto, whose full impact was felt long after his own day. Hines today at 52 is vigorously alive, but less prominent and less directly influential on the young pianist; it is in the Hines-motivated work of innumerable other pianists that we can see how long his contribution is bound to last. Nat Cole and Stan Kenton have shown clearly the image of Hines in their piano work; Tatum, Basie, Jess Stacy, Joe Sullivan are as much in his debt as in Waller's. The Hines influence is directly discernible today in the occasional jazz appearances of Mel Powell, though Powell clearly spent many early Kstening years at the feet of another pace-setter, the next