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The first time I was introduced to jazz great Earl “Fatha” Hines was when my cousin Tom V. (an excellent guitarist and contribution to SotW) played Ry Cooder’s recording of “Ditty Wah Ditty” from the album Paradise and Lunch (1974) for me. This is a version of the Blind Blake composition, not the song by Willie Dixon and Bo Diddley that shares the same title (although many spelling variations exist). Hines duets with Cooder on this track.
Hines was over 70 years old when “Ditty Wah Ditty” was released. Still, his playing was impeccable. His improvisational runs and glissandos are a thing of beauty.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also give you something to listen to from Hines’ early, influential recordings with Louis Armstrong from the late 1920s. My selection is “Weather Bird.”
The liner notes to The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz call “Weather Bird” a “mounting, unencumbered duet… the fullest statement on record of the encounter of the trumpeter (Armstrong) and pianist Earl Hines.”
Hines’ duets with Armstrong are cited as some of the most important jazz recordings ever pressed. Hines is credited with inventing the piano style known as the trumpet-style. Its main characteristic is a right hand that plays chords that were typical of horn sections of the day. Hines was a major influence on Art Tatum, another pianist that many jazz aficionados consider one of the greatest ever.
Enjoy… until next week.