Aha Moment: Earl "Fatha" Hines

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Earl 'Fatha' Hines

Seth Barkan’s father was a classical cellist who urged his son to follow in his footsteps. Barkan studied classical piano for years, but it never quite suited him. Then one day, accompanying his mother to Costco, he returned with a cheap history of jazz on CD. He skipped through most of the tracks, but stopped dead when he heard the stride pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines playing “Old Fashioned Love.”

“Within the first 10 seconds, I hear that this guy was approaching the piano as if it was a completely blank slate and there were no rules,” he remembers. “It was this fireworks show. He’s impersonating an entire Dixieland jazz band, one line on each finger.” Barkan immediately decided he’d make this style of music his life’s pursuit.

“Every time I sat down to practice, it was to chase Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines,” Barkan says. He didn’t realize that chase would lead him down a long and often difficult career path.

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(Originally aired: May 15, 2009)