Earl Hines: Warm Valley
Earl Hines (piano)
Plays Duke Ellington (New World 80361-2)
Earl Hines (piano).
Composed by Duke Ellington.
Recorded: New York, December 10, 1971
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
Duke Ellington introduced "Warm Valley" in 1940 as a feature for Johnny Hodges with the outstanding Ben Webster-Jimmy Blanton edition of Duke's orchestra. According to Rex Stewart, the tune was inspired by Duke's gazing at a range of hills from a train window: "Just look at that, it's a perfect replica of a female reclining in complete relaxation, so unashamedly exposing her warm valley."
Although Earl Hines first met Ellington in 1925, and was a close friend of Johnny Hodges, he never played "Warm Valley" until the day he recorded it in 1971. Hines laid down numerous Ellington compositions in four sessions between 1971 and 1975, but was very selective. Some of Duke's tunes were just too orchestral in nature, or too dependent on a particular soloist, or too harmonically complex to learn on short notice, or were rare examples of Duke's own intimate solo piano pieces and better left alone. While "Warm Valley" was a challenge, Hines – one of the most important and creative pianists in jazz history – more than perseveres, despite a slightly tentative start. A probing intro leads to emphatic chords and a provocative interpretation of the lilting melody. His darting runs, ringing tremolos, touches of stride, and intricate, almost acrobatic two-handed counterpoint, make for an enthralling combination. There is a starkness and refreshing unpredictability to his attack, and after the sudden introduction of a waltz tempo, his approach becomes more regal and densely orchestral. Then he returns to more linear overlapping phraseology and an intermingling of lines. Hines's amazing final chorus clearly shows how much he directly or indirectly influenced pianists such as Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Bud Powell, Monk, and even Cecil Taylor. Magnificent, and accomplished in only one take! Hines's "trumpet-style" piano is timeless.
Reviewer: Scott Albin