This initial installment in the historical chronology of recordings released under the name of Earl Hines contains no less than 13 finely rendered piano solos. Hines the pianist is caught in the act of tapping into everything that was in the air at the time: ragtime, blues, catchy airs and shout-style stride -- everything a bright young man would have picked up between Pittsburgh and Chicago, with Kansas City, New Orleans and New York coming up through the floorboards. Hines experimented unflinchingly with rhythmic variation, and was by far the most adventurous improviser in all of jazz piano before the rise of Art Tatum. "Caution Blues" is the venerable "Blues in Thirds" taken at a brisk clip. The ensemble sides, which were the very first to appear under Hines' own name, have elements in common with what was being recorded in 1929 by Louis Armstrong, Luis Russell, the nine- and eleven-piece editions of Fats Waller & His Buddies, and many other fine bands of the day. There are two rather insipid vocals by trombonist William Franklin, a fine dose of hefty scat singing from tuba-toting arranger Hayes Alvis, and three decidedly hip examples of Hines as hot and low-down vocalist. He scats with abandon during a smoky rendition of "Everybody Loves My Baby," talks like Don Redman on "Have You Ever Felt That Way?" and chortles wordlessly on "Sister Kate" after the manner of Louis Armstrong. Finishing off the disc with a taste of 1932, "Deep Forest," soon to be established as the Hines theme song, is a sort of piano concerto in miniature. Here is the perfect prologue to what this striking individual went on to accomplish over the next half-century.
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