Earl “Fatha” Hines and his band at a club date in Chicago, from August 3, 1938 and broadcast by the NBC Red Network.
Earl Kenneth Hines, universally known as Earl “Fatha” Hines, was one of the most influential figures in the development of jazz piano and, according to one major source, is “one of a small number of pianists whose playing shaped the history of jazz”.
The trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (a member of Hines’s big band, along with Charlie Parker) wrote, “The piano is the basis of modern harmony. This little guy came out of Chicago, Earl Hines. He changed the style of the piano. You can find the roots of Bud Powell, Herbie Hancock, all the guys who came after that. If it hadn’t been for Earl Hines blazing the path for the next generation to come, it’s no telling where or how they would be playing now. There were individual variations but the style of … the modern piano came from Earl Hines.”
The pianist Lennie Tristano said, “Earl Hines is the only one of us capable of creating real jazz and real swing when playing all alone.” Horace Silver said, “He has a completely unique style. No one can get that sound, no other pianist”. Erroll Garner said, “When you talk about greatness, you talk about Art Tatum and Earl Hines”.
Count Basie said that Hines was “the greatest piano player in the world”.
From the Grand Terrace, Hines and his band broadcast on “open mikes” over many years, sometimes seven nights a week, coast-to-coast across America – Chicago being well placed to deal with live broadcasting across time zones in the United States. The Hines band became the most broadcast band in America. Among the listeners were a young Nat King Cole and Jay McShann in Kansas City, who said his “real education came from Earl Hines. When ‘Fatha’ went off the air, I went to bed.” Hines’s most significant “student” was Art Tatum.
The Hines band usually comprised 15-20 musicians on stage, occasionally up to 28. Among the band’s many members were Wallace Bishop, Alvin Burroughs, Scoops Carry, Oliver Coleman, Bob Crowder, Thomas Crump, George Dixon, Julian Draper, Streamline Ewing, Ed Fant, Milton Fletcher, Walter Fuller, Dizzy Gillespie, Leroy Harris, Woogy Harris, Darnell Howard, Cecil Irwin, Harry ‘Pee Wee’ Jackson, Warren Jefferson, Budd Johnson, Jimmy Mundy, Ray Nance, Charlie Parker, Willie Randall, Omer Simeon, Cliff Smalls, Leon Washington, Freddie Webster, Quinn Wilson and Trummy Young.
Occasionally, Hines allowed another pianist sit in for him, the better to allow him to conduct the whole “Organization”. Jess Stacy was one, Nat “King” Cole and Teddy Wilson were others, but Cliff Smalls was his favorite.
For a taste of the early stuff, here is one of those Grand Terrace broadcasts from August, 1938.