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Harold Danko: Hinesight: The Music of Earl Hines

All but the most historically erudite modern-jazz listeners will have much to learn from Harold Danko’s Hinesight: The Music of Earl Hines (Steeplechase). Danko is a passionate proselytizer for Hines’ enormous, and insufficiently understood, influence on jazz history. While his impact on jazz was most significant in establishing the primacy of the improvised solo, Hines’ role of composer-which he filled prolifically and with distinction for six decades-is the subject of Hinesight.

Danko, with sensitive if cautious support from bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Jeff Hirshfield, makes a strong pianistic case for the relevance, modernity and melodic imperishability of Hines’ tunes, including “Congaine,” recorded only once before-in 1923. Through Danko’s subtle touch and sure instincts for phrasing and form, one buried gem after another is uncovered and renewed, such as “Ann, Wonderful One,” which is subjected, improbably but effectively, to a 6/4 Brazilian pulse, and “In San Francisco,” a quietly astonishing, sweet nostalgia piece for Hines’ adopted home, abstracted into postmodernism by Danko’s liberated rubato. The in-depth liner notes by Mark Gardner, supplemented with fascinating personal testimonials from Danko, are especially important to this album.

Originally Published