Earl Hines: A Monday Date

The solo rendition of this Hines standard is even better than the famous Hot Fives version with Louis Armstrong. (Important note: I am discussing the 12/8/28 version timed at 2:53, not the one recorded the next day.)

Hines must have had enormous hands to play those big marching and striding tenths so quickly and authoritatively with his southpaw. His right hand grabs big clusters and chords, too: this is a hell of a lot of piano.

There's always something engagingly ragtag about a Hines performance. In fact, those signature weird stops and pauses - surely only Hines was doing this in 1928! - are really off the grid, sounding dangerously like moments of free improvisation. Hines always keeps the beat, of course, but not even Art Tatum is as fearless about pursuing the unknown - or rather letting the chips fall where they may. (Hines's piano break on "Savoyager's Stomp" with Armstrong - also 1928 - is the height of avant-garde.)

Of all the pre-bop pianists, Hines had the longest career as a solo pianist - his final recordings from the '70s are as interesting and provocative as his first 1928 sides.

January 12, 2009 · 0 comments


Louis Armstrong: A Monday Date

"Hey - say, say, say, Earl Hines Why don't you let us in on some of that good music, Pops?" inquires Louis Armstrong at the top of this classic track.

"Well, c'mon, yeah let's get together then," replies Hines, and in this seemingly matter-of-fact moment of friendly collaboration, the utterly inseparable relationship between the soloist/leader and his or her rhythm section is forever illuminated. Yes, even Louis needed a rhythm section to "let him in."

The music commences with a surprisingly odd 5-measure cymbal/woodblock break from Zutty Singleton (a 4-measure break and one measure of half-notes to bring in the band). Zutty reappears during Armstrong's solo, and then for a concluding 4-measure break that relates to but not does not duplicate his introductory statement. Zutty's presentation of these essential, minimal rhythms can be heard in the vocabulary of every subsequent jazz drummer, from Jo Jones to Roy Haynes to Tain Watts.

While it's always easy to glance over the banjoist, Mancy Carr's playing is a bit more nuanced than one may think on first listen. He carefully chooses accents that fit between Hines's comping to add an essential driving force to the track.

The rhythm section highlight here, to no one's surprise, is Hines himself, whose pre-dialogue introduction, pre-verse piano break, post-Armstrong-solo break, and stride comping under trombone, clarinet and trumpet solos are models for all future pianists. Note how Hines's style greatly varies when he's executing a solo break as opposed to his insightful playing behind a vocalist or instrumentalist. Early jazz interaction at its finest.

June 10, 2008 · 0 comments


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