A brilliant keyboard virtuoso, Earl Hines was one of the first great piano soloists in jazz, and one of the very few musicians who could hold his own with Louis Armstrong, as he proved in their duet of Weather Bird. His so-called 'trumpet' style used doubled octaves in the right hand to produce a clear melodic line that stood out over the sound of a whole band, but he also had a magnificent technical command of the entire range of the keyboard.
Hines went on to lead his own big band, and in the 1940s, his group was the birthplace of bebop, with both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in his line-up. Later he scaled back to smaller bands, appearing in Armstrong's All Stars, and spending several years in a Dixieland sextet with cornettist Muggsy Spanier.
Hines grew up in Pittsburgh, and played with local singer Lois Deppe, but he made his mark when he moved to Chicago in 1923, and joined a succession of the city's most high-profile bands. One of these was Carroll Dickerson's in which Hines played alongside Armstrong. Then he worked with clarinettist Jimmie Noone at the Apex Club before forming his own band to work at the Grand Terrace throughout the 1930s.
This became one of the best-known big bands in the USA, and on tour, Hines and his star singer Billy Eckstine were treated like the rock stars of later years, being mobbed by the huge crowds that turned out to hear them. After his periods with Armstrong and Spanier, Hines led his own small groups for the 1960s and 1970s, and brought his highly original style to new generations of listeners around the world. He produced some of his finest recordings as a soloist or with a trio during his final years, showing that his talent remained undimmed by the passage of time.