Earl Hines is considered in some quarters, including the most relevant quarter of pianists themselves, to be "the father of modern jazz piano."
Hines had a transitional style that took its main basis from swing but anticipated some important modern innovations. As such, being ahead of his time in some ways while firmly planted in the present in others, it took a while for Hines to get his due. But now he has been seen in retrospect as having been quite influential, with modernists such as Ahmad Jamal, Jaki Byard and Fred Hersch swearing to his significance to the development of modern jazz piano.
This reissue by Delmark Records is very much a welcome addition to the Hines discography. Titled "At the Party", it is what it says- a live date at a party, in this case at a San Francisco ballroom in 1970.
While the year was 1970 however, Hines style was still very much vintage, and the band format- guitar, bass, drums, and percussion or vibes on some numbers, was common for Hines in the later period of his career.
What is not common here is the beautiful pianistic splendor of one Earl "Fatha" Hines. Hines, like Erroll Garner, was reknowned for his "pretty" piano. Indeed, he played some very florid gestures on the keyboard- shimmering cascades of keys and pretty fluttering trills, and these are in ample supply here. Like Garner too, we hear the simple but nonetheless driving pulse of swing music undergirding his playing. Boom-chik, Boom-chick, Boom-chick; that was the era from which Hines came from, but this music seems still fresh, largely because of Hines' masterful piano that is by turns majestic and creative.
Unlike Garner though, Hines was more of a "space" man, allowing space to creep in between the notes and only putting all stops on with his piano in sudden, rapidly accelerating fits. In both of these respects we can how Earl Hines may have greatly influenced Ahmad Jamal.
The material covered by Hines and his band at this party is all classic standards- "It's Only a Paper Moon", "Lazy River", "Indiana", and so on.
It's all played at medium tempos, and played with a sense of relaxed swing only befitting a then- vintage Hines himself. This of course is vintage Earl Hines, and deserves a look by all jazz fans hip to the ways of Fatha.