There are jazz legends and then there are the 'underground of the jazz
renowned' - those who, although not known to the general public, are hailed
by critics, revered by their legendary peers, influential upon younger
players and sought after by collectors and cognoscenti.
Hod O'Brien is one of these quiet-and-true jazz giants. He burst upon the
scene in the late 50's when he came to New York City from his hometown in
the Berkshire Mountains of Northwest Connecticut near Lenox, Mass. and
Tanglewood. He soon became part of the 'loft scene' jamming with other
bop-influenced players like Pepper Adams, Kenny Burrell, Oscar Pettiford
and Stan Getz, to name a few. At the age of 21, he was hired to record with
Art Farmer, Donald Byrd and Idress Sulieman on a record which has become a
classic, "Three Trumpets" (now retitled "Trumpets All Out" on the Prestige
label}, He became an active part of the NY scene playing at such historical
clubs as Birdland, the Continental, the Cork and Bib, the Black Pearl and
While still 21, O'Brien was asked by Red Rodney to take Bill Evans' place
in the Oscar Pettiford Quintet. The group alternated sets with Thelonious
Monk at the famous Five Spot, among other appearances. After this stint
with Pettiford, O'Brien joined up with tenor saxophonist J.R. Monterose in
a band which also included Elvin Jones and Wilbur Ware.
O'Brien took a hiatus from the jazz scene from 1963-73 when he went back
to Columbia University to get a mathematics degree. While at Columbia, he
also studied composition with Charles Wourinen and was part of the
contemporary music scene there. He later worked in statistical research
in the field of psychology but made his way back to jazz in the mid- 70's
with the opening of his own club, The St. James Infirmary, where he led a
house band with Cameron Brown and Beaver Harris and backed up such guest
artists as Chet Baker, Roswell Rudd, Lee Konitz, Zoot Sims, Charlie Rouse
and others. He followed this with an historic 5-year, 5-night/week engagement
at Gregory's (one of the few Upper East Side jazz clubs in NY and famous
worldwide} with guitarist Joe Puma and various renowned bassists. During
this time, 0'Brien also appeared at such NY clubs as Fat Tuesday's Lush
Life (with Chet Baker) and the Blue Note.
Many years have passed since the early bebop days and most players on the
scene today have been influenced by Contemporary jazz, rock, fusion and
other forms of music. O'Brien's style is still one of the purest
representations of bop piano around (along with Barry Harris, and a few
others}. One can also hear in his playing a healthy infusion of Dave
In 1980, O'Brien teamed up with singer Stephanie Nakasian (who spent two
years with ,Ton Hendricks and Company). Since then, they have toured
together all over the world and have won various awards, as well as appearing
at maajor jazz festivals and recording together for radio and and on compact
disc. At the tender Clge of 58, Hod 0'Brien became a father and with his
wife Stephanie Nakasian and their daughter Veronica make their home in
Charlottesville, Virginia. O'Brien and Nakasian are artists on the Va.
Commission for the Arts touring roster.
He is slowly but surely being 'discovered' in his prime performing around
the U,S., in Europe and the Caribbean and records as a leader and sideman
including many recordings with the hard-bop repertory ensemble led by drummer
Danny D'Imperio. Recent festival appearances include the Toronto Jazz
Festival and the Ottawa Jazz Festival in Canada.
As Nat Hentoff wrote in Modem Recording magazine, "O'Brien is a long-distance
swinger." (alluding to 0'Brien's five NY and Boston marathons with times
under three hours)... "some of the customers know that he was a vital part
of the bop scene...but to most listeners - he's just a guy who makes you
feel good on up tempo numbers and who can get inside your memories on ballads."
Long, fluid lines of improvisation, Strong but easy swinging drive
and pulse, Unique style and sound: Purist bop style. Melodic and Entertaining.
HOD O'BRIEN Recordings
1998 So That's How It Is --- Reservoir
w/ Ray Drummond and Kenny Washington
1993 Hod and Cole --------- JazzMania
w/ Mark Kirk-as,sop, Steve Gilmore-bass, Jeff Brillinger-drums, Tony Purrone-guitar
1991 Ridin' High ------------ Reservoir
w/ Ray Drummond and Kenny Washington
1987 Shining Hour --------- Reservoir
w/ Joe Puma and Red Mitchell
1985 Opalessence ---------- Criss Cross
w/ Pepper Adams, Torn Harrell, Ray Drummond, Kenny Washington and Stephanie Nakasian (on one track)
1982 Bits and Pieces ------ Uptown
w/ Teddy Kotick and Jimmy Wormworth
1999 Homecoming -------- Ticee
featuring John Jensen-tbn w/ Steve Gilmore
1997 The Outlaw ----------- Sackville
featuring Danny D'Jmperio and band
1996 Twente Suite --------- HomeMadeCake
featuring Johan Bijkerk and band
1995 Glass Enclosure ------ V.S.O.P.
featuring Danny D'lmperio group
1993 Hip to It -------------- V.S.O.P.
featuring Danny D'lmperio group (w/ Andy Fusco-as, Jimmy Johns-timbales)
1993 To Be With You ------- HQS
featuring Sal Soghoian-guitar w/ Stephanie Nakasian-vocals
1993 Pocket Song Series (6 recordings)
featuring Stephanie Nakasian-vocals (played piano and arranged)
1993 BitterSweet ---------- JazzMania
featuring Stephanie Nakasian-vocals
1992 Blues for Philly Joe - V.S.O.P.
featuring Danny D'lmperio Sextet w/ Ralph LaLama-ts. Greg Gisbert-tpt,
Gary Pribek-as, Dave Shapiro-bass, Steve Brown- guitar
1992 French Cookin' ------- V.S.O.P.
featuring Stephanie Nakasian, Bobby Routch-french horn
1989 Comin' Alive --------- V.S.O.P.
featuring Stephanie Nakasian w/ guest artist Phil Woods-as
1988 Free Spirit -------------- Criss Cross
featuring Ted Brown
1986 In Good Company ---- Criss Cross
featuring Ted Brown w/ Jimmy Raney
1985 Blues for a Reason --- Criss Cross
featuring Chet Baker and Warne Marsh
1982 Renaissance ---------- Uptown
featuring Allan Eager
1981 I'm a Sucker Too ----- Silvertone
featuring Alicia Sherman-vocals
1980 Live in Albany ------- Uptown
featuring J.R. Monterose
1979 Welcome Back, J.R. --- Progressive
featuring J.R. Monterose
1975 Flexible Flyer ------- Arista-Freedom
featuring Sheila Jordan and Roswell Rudd
1974 Numatik Swing Band --- J.C.O.A.
featuring Roswell Rudd and the Jazz Composers Orchestra
1960 Guitar Groove -------- Jazzland
featuring Rene Thomas
1957 Trumpets All Out ----- Fantasy-Prestige
featuring Art Farmer, Donald Byrd and Idrees Sulieman (first released as Three Trumpets)