Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
O'Brien, Hod (Walter Howard)
O'Brien's family moved to the Berkshire area of Northwest Connecticut and he began working there professionally in 1955. Studied privately, then at Oberlin Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music (1954-7), then settled in NYC and freelanced. 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 Idrees Sulieman. He became an active part of the NY scene playing at such clubs as Birdland, the Continental, the Cork and Bib, the Black Pearl and Small's Paradise. While still 21, O'Brien was asked by Red Rodney to take Bill Evans' place in the Oscar Pettiford Quintet. Among other appearances, the group alternated sets with Thelonious Monk at the famous Five Spot. 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. Studied math and psych at Columbia U 1964-69 (earned B.S. in 1969). While at Columbia, he also studied composition with Charles Wuorinen and was part of the contemporary music scene there. He later worked in statistical research in the field of psychology (at NYU 1969-74), but made his way back to jazz in 1974 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. By 1975 he was freelancing again. He had a 5-year, 5-night/week engagement at Gregory's (1977-1982) with guitarist Joe Puma and various renowned bassists. During this time, O'Brien also appeared at such NY clubs as Fat Tuesday's, Lush Life (with Chet Baker), and the Blue Note. In 1980, O'Brien teamed up with singer Stephanie Nakasian. Since then, they have toured together all over the world and have won various awards, as well as appearing at major jazz festivals and recording together for radio and on CD. In 1994, at the tender age of 58, Hod O'Brien became a father - he and his wife Stephanie Nakasian and their daughter Veronica make their home in Charlottesville, Virginia and O'Brien and Nakasian are artists on the Virginia Commission for the Arts touring roster.
He performs 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 apperances include the Toronto Jazz Festival, Ottawa Jazz Festival, Pensicola Jazz Festival and Port Townsend Jazz Festival, and an exciting two-piano concert with Barry Harris.
Bits and Pieces (1982); Opalessence (with Pepper Adams, Tom Harrell, Ray Drummond, Kenny Washington) (1985); Shining Hour (1987); Reservoir (1991); Hod and Cole (1993); So That's How It Is (1998); Have Piano...Will Swing! (2000); Fine and Dandy (2002); Fanfare for the Unknown (2004)
Art Farmer, Donald Byrd and Idrees Sulieman: Trumpets All Out (first released as Three Trumpets) (1957); Rene Thomas: Guitar Groove (1960); Roswell Rudd and The Jazz Composers Orchestra: Numatik Swing Band (1974); Sheila Jordan and Roswell Rudd: Flexible Flyer (1975); J.R. Monterose: Welcome Back, J.R. (1979), Live in Albany (1980); Alicia Sherman: I'm a Sucker Too (1981); Allan Eager: Renaissance (1982); Chet Baker and Warne Marsh: Blues for a Reason (1985); Ted Brown with Jimmy Raney: In Good Company (1986); Ted Brown: Free Spirit (1988); Stephanie Nakasian: Comin' Alive (with Phil Woods) (1989), French Cookin' (1992); Danny D'Imperio Sextet: Blues for Philly Joe (1992); Stephanie Nakasian: BitterSweet (1993); Stephanie Nakasian-vocals, Hod O'Brien-piano and arrangements: Pocket Song Series (6 recordings in the Music Minus One series) (1993); Sal Soghoian: To Be With You (with Stephanie Nakasian) (1993); Danny D'Imperio : Hip to It (199 3), Glass Enclosure (1995); Johan Bijkerk: Twente Suite (1996); Danny D'Imperio: The Outlaw (1997); John Jensen: Homecoming (with Steve Gilmore) (1999); Jeff Decker: I'll Know (2000)