Symposium Honors Late Lecturer's Musical Exploits





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Bay Area music lovers and critics gathered on campus Saturday to honor a musician credited with establishing the piano as a solo jazz instrument.

Earl "Fatha" Hines, a former Regents' Lecturer in the UC Berkeley Department of Music, was described by his colleagues as one of the greatest jazz pianists of the 20th century. Hines died in 1983 at the age of 78.

Professor Olly Wilson, who moderated the symposium, said Hines, along with Louis Armstrong, numbers among the nation's greatest jazz musicians.

"He is perhaps one of the finest improvising pianists in the entire century," he said.

Wilson, who summarized Hines' accomplishments, explained the origin of the musician's nickname.

"He was doing a national broadcast and one night the national broadcaster announcer said, 'Here comes Fatha Hines, leading his band out of the deep forest to play for us,'" Wilson said. "Deep Forest is the title of his theme song. And so the name Fatha Hines leading a band sort of stuck."

He said that in addition to Hines' talent, the musician's close ties to Northern California motivated the symposium.

"Hines lived in the Bay Area for the last three decades of his life, so he lived in Oakland, so he was part of the Bay Area community," Wilson said.

In 1979, UC Berkeley officials invited Hines to give a series of lectures in the music department.

"He has a connection both to the West Coast and to Berkeley," Wilson said.

One of the speakers at the event was Jeff Taylor, a Hines piano music scholar from the City University of New York. Taylor said he appreciated Hines' improvisational skills.

"Hines had a great ability to transfer instantly what he was thinking to his hands," Taylor said.

Fernando Benadon, a graduate student in the music department, said the symposium was an appropriate way to honor an important local and national figure.

"Since Earl Hines lived here for so many years, it's only fair that something like this should be happening at this school," Benadon said.

One audience member said he was drawn to the symposium by the prestige of the speakers, especially Grammy Award nominee and band leader Anthony Brown and composer-conductor Gunther Schuller.

"(Schuller)'s a really seminal figure," said Charles Ferris, a student in the music department. "He bridges the divide between classical and jazz music, so he brings in a lot of incredible insight."

The event included an exhibit of Hines memorabilia outside the music library in Morrison Hall. The display featured several awards, certificates, autographed photographs and original composition manuscripts.

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