Hines is one
of the few pianists to have played a significant role in the shaping
of jazz history. He added to the restrictive ragtime techniques
employed by most pianists of the early-1920s, by
developing a 'trumpet style' right hand - linear lines,
sometimes in octaves, rather than the dense ragtime patterns. His
left hand departed from the usual heavy stride pattern, accenting
off-beats and breaking up these patterns with walking tenths and counterpoint
lines. In later years, his solo playing became truly ambidextrous,
with a sense of danger and true improvisation with both hands.
Hines is brought up in Pittsburgh. His mother teaches him to play
the piano. In 1923 he moves to Chicago, and within a year is leading
Hines forms his own band, later to become a big band, touring
and with a residency at the mafia-controlled Grand Terrace Ballroom
in Chicago. He thrives under the pressure, and the
big band is a great commercial success.
Hines reforms his association with Armstrong
succesfully, but in time Hines resents Armstrong's control and
his own lack of star billing.
For much of the
decade Hines is associated with Louis
Armstrong, who is to become a great rival, recording and performing
in various formats including trumpet and piano duos.
Hines forms another band and casts
a benevolent eye over the emerging bebop
movement: Charlie Parker,
Dizzy Gillespie and Wardell Gray
are members. In 1947 the band finishes and Hines returns to Chicago.
The 1950s sees Hines' career at a nadir and he has a Los Angeles
residency for most of the decade. His career is resurrected in the
mid-1960s, and by the 1970s he is one of a handful of jazz legends,
touring the world. He performs until a week before his death.