Fine commentary on Earl Hines’ rightful place in jazz legend. You might also have mentioned how indebted Nat Cole was to the Fatha and how Nat is also often unrecognized today for the giant he was–most people seem to remember him as just a singer.
He exhibited the same joy and exuberance in his playing that Hines did and need not have ever sung a note in order to be always remembered.
I couldn’t agree more with the former editor of Down Beat about Nat Cole’s greatness as a pianist. In addition to the qualities Mr. Tracy mentions, Cole’s keyboard touch and advanced harmonic concept influenced almost all modern jazz pianists who came after him, including Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. Considering the impact those three alone had on the course of jazz piano, it is clear that the multiplier effect of Cole’s example pervades the music. He had other influences—Teddy Wilson, Billy Kyle—but Hines was his primary inspiration, and Cole often acknowledged him. Hines’ effect on Cole is directly apparent on the earliest King Cole Trio recordings on Decca. There are even more refined examples of it in his “Body and Soul” solo from the first Jazz At The Philharmonic concert in 1944, in “Lester Leaps In,” and most dramatically in “Tea for Two.” You can also plainly hear Hines in the way Cole comps at JATJP behind Shorty Sherock, Jack McVea, Les Paul, and Illinois Jacquet on “Rosetta.” On the same album, his exchange of two-bar phrases with Les Paul in a chase sequence on the blues demonstrates the exuberance Jack mentions, as well as Cole’s lightning musical reflexes and his love of risk-taking. Nat Cole’s spectacular, and deserved, popular success as a singer eclipsed his role as a pianist, but his enduring musical importance came at the keyboard.
I’m glad that Jack raised this point about Cole. It sent me to the shelves to dig out the JATP album. I hadn’t heard it in years. I haven’t had more listening fun in weeks, even unto the tenor sax honks and squeals of McVea and Jacquet. Sixty years later, they seem not gratuitously outrageous, but amusing. I suspect that is how they were intended. Not the least of the CD’s pleasures is hearing the young trombonist J.J. Johnson making the transition from swing to bop.
In a confluence of recent Rifftides topics…
I took my 11-year-old step son and 4-year-old daughter to a Maynard Ferguson Big Bop Nouveau concert at a local high school last night. The high school’s big band opened for them.
During the first tune, after a couple of solos and the traditional after-solo applause, my daughter leaned over to me and asked, “are they going to play straight through, or stop between songs?” I said, “no, they will stop between songs,” to which she replied, “then why are we clapping while the music is still playing?”
My kind of 11-year-old.