Celebrating Maurice Hines

July 2, 2024

There was a special connection between tap dancer Maurice Hines and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra. Hines’ longstanding manager, the late Stanley Kay, who also managed drummer Buddy Rich, created the DIVA Jazz Orchestra in 1993 after hearing drummer Sherrie Maricle play at a 75th anniversary celebration of New York’s Schubert Theater.

Hines (photo above), who also performed at the Schubert event, passed away on December 29, 2023, at the age of 80. On July 29, DIVA and tap dancers/vocalists John and Leo Manzari will present “A Celebration of Maurice Hines — Tappin’ Thru Life’ at Birdland. Special guests will include vocalists Ann Hampton Callaway and Clint Holmes.

Tappin’ Thru Life was a show Hines introduced in 2013 to honor his brother, Gregory Hines, who died in 2003 at age 57. It was a musical journey, taking the audience on a nostalgia trip via narration, singing, and, of course, dancing. When it opened at New York’s New World Stages, The New York Times’ Laura Collins-Hughes called it “blistering hot”, describing Hines as “a singing, dancing showman extraordinaire.”

I saw Tappin’ Thru Life in November 2019 when it was presented at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center as part of the TD James Moody Jazz Festival. It was a toe-tapping, swinging demonstration of the pure joy of music. It not only left the audience smiling but also clapping their hands and shuffling their feet.

In the 1950s, Maurice and Gregory teamed with their father, Maurice Hines, Sr., for an act called Hines, Hines & Dad, performing in New York, Las Vegas, and Europe and appearing regularly on such television programs as The Tonight Show and Hollywood Palace. In the late ’70s and ’80s, they appeared in the Broadway musical, Eubie!, celebrating the music of Eubie Blake, and in Sophisticated Ladies, showcasing the music of Duke Ellington. They were also both in the 1984 movie, The Cotton Club. There’s a spectacular scene in that film when the Hines brothers join a dance version of a jam session with a group of older tap dancers, including such legends as Charles ‘Honi’ Coles and Howard ‘Sandman’ Sims. When I interviewed Maurice prior to his NJPAC performance, he told me that he and Gregory “learned from the masters. The older tappers really adopted us. They were really brilliant. They thought like musicians.”

He also told me that the most important ingredient in his performances was always the audience. “The audience,” he said, “drives the show. We were taught to be spontaneous. Every audience is different and will let you know what they like. The great John Bubbles once said: ‘The only thing that matters is the audience. When you’re on that stage, you owe them.’ That’s my training.”

Upon learning of Hines’ death, DIVA’s Maricle, on Facebook, said: “Maurice would walk on stage and throw his arms wide open towards the audience with his full heart on display. His energy transcended boundaries, and his performances were full of genuine warmth, generosity, and truth. He lit up the stage like nobody else.”

The Birdland celebration of Maurice Hines will begin at 7 p.m. on July 29. For tickets and information, log onto birdlandjazz.com or call (212) 581-3080.–SANFORD JOSEPHSON




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