April 2015

Icon: Earl Hines

Looking into the history of composer and bandleader Earl Hines, and how he came to be known for his inventive approach to jazz.

National Standards: 7, 8, 9, 11

Prepare: Have the class read Icon: Earl Hines (page 14 of the student edition). The article tells a history on the life and career of jazz composer and bandleader Earl Hines.

Key points in the article:

  • Hines was classically trained on piano as a child and began singing professionally with Lois Deppe’s Symphonic Serenaders at age 17. In 1921 he and Deppe were the first African-Americans on the radio.
  • He partnered with Louis Armstrong in ’25 in the Roaring Twenties jazz scene in Chicago. Hines’ style of playing quick octaves and trills with his right hand and outlining the harmony and rhythm with his left became known as comping (short for accompaniment).
  • With his big band the Orchestra, Hines toured the South in 1931 — due to discrimination, the band felt more like invaders than entertainers.
  • After nearly retiring in the ’50s, he began giving solo piano recitals in ’64 that were hugely successful. Named “No. 1 Jazz Pianist” by Downbeat six times, he continued performing until he died in ’83.

Begin: Discuss with the class key events in Hines’ career. Topics may include:

  • Being one of the first African-Americans on the radio, and facing discrimination when touring with the Orchestra in the South
  • His relationship with Louis Armstrong, and how they reconnected later in Hines’ career
  • How he spent a decade or so in retirement before he suddenly regained success with his solo piano recitals

Watch: Share the following video of Hines playing and talking about his influences on television:

Play the following video of Hines performing “Memories of You” at a workshop in Berlin:

Listen: Have the class listen to the following playlist of Hines’ music: