Vintage Art Hodes documents the solo piano work of an early jazz master, a neglected one who belongs in the pantheon of James P. Johnson, Earl Hines, and Teddy Wilson. He was low-key and self-effacing musically, but few pianists were as solid in both the accompanist and solo roles. Also, few pianists have had such a wealth of resources as Hodes, meaning genuine resources reflecting an intimate understanding of the various streams leading into what became jazz. Hodes could play it all convincingly with a deep connection to the music.
Art Hodes was a Russian born, American pianist who grew up in Chicago during one of the great periods of jazz history. He was in his late teens and early twenties when the likes of King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton played in the nightspots of his city. Eventually, Hodes played with Armstrong, and later with Wingy Manone, Gene Krupa, and Muggsy Spanier. He stayed in Chicago long after many left for New York City.
It wasn’t until 1938 when he left to play with Joe Marsala, and Mezz Mezzrow before forming his own New York based bands. Before his career was over he played and recorded with many of the finest musicians associated with New Orleans and Dixieland Jazz, including Sidney Bechet, Albert Nicholas, Wild Bill Davison, and Vic Dickenson. His style arose out of the blues, ragtime, and church music and he never strayed too far from these beginnings.
The first four tracks of Vintage Art Hodes documents four fragments recorded in 1930. The sonic qualities of these four recordings are not up to modern standards but they are interesting for their contrast with the rest of the CD recorded between 1940 and 1950. The early recordings have a competitive, somewhat showy quality to some of the playing. By the later recordings Hodes had become a master of solo piano. He plays many of his own compositions seemingly for himself. The pace is generally slow, casual, and intense. The emotional undercurrent is at times startling, the extraneous has long ago been burned off, leaving us with some of the great solo piano work of early jazz styles. Highly recommended.
Personnel: Art Hodes, solo piano.