One of Earl “Fatha” Hines’s greatest admirers, fellow pianist Dick Wellstood, wrote in the liner notes for Earl Hines: Quintessential Continued,
Behold Earl Hines, spinner of yarns, big handed virtuoso of the black dance, con man extraordinaire, purveyor of hot sauce.
Behold Earl Hines, Jive King, boss of the sloppy run, the dragged thumb, the uneven tremolo, Minstral of the Unworthy Emotion, King of Freedom.
Democratic Transcendent, his twitchy, spitting style uses every cheesy trick in the piano-bar catalog to create moving cathedrals, masterpieces of change, great trains of tension and relaxation, multi-dimensional solos that often seem to be about themselves or other solos—’See, here I might have played some boogie-woogie, or put this accent here, or put this accent there, or this run here, that chord there…or maybe a little stride for you beautiful people in the audience…’Earl Hines, Your Musical Host, serving up the hot sauce.
His is Freedom in Discipline, infinite choice in a limited sphere, the tension of Will vs. Material—his is human creativity. Behold Earl Hines, King of Beasts.
Here’s the King of Beasts at the piano workshop of the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1965. He plays Eubie Blake’s “Memories of You” with bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and drummer Alan Dawson. This was during the early stages of what was widely described as Hines’s comeback or rediscovery, and he was feeling his oats.
That’s for all of you fathas out there. And you muthas, too.