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Hod O'Brien Trio

Craig Jolley By

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Bud Powell-inspired pianist/composer Hod O'Brien came to maturity on the late-50's New York scene, gigging and recording in the company of Oscar Pettiford, Art Farmer, J.R. Monterose, and others. I first noticed him years ago on "Diffusion of Beauty," a piece of exotica he wrote for a three-trumpet record with Farmer, Donald Byrd, and Idrees Sulieman. Like many of his contemporaries he dropped out of sight during the 1960's. O'Brien reemerged in the mid-70's on the New York club circuit and began a string of solid recordings. His authoritative touch, feel, and swing are immediately apparent, but above all he is a soloist.
The trio came off as an integrated ensemble conscious of leaving breathing room for each other and for their audience. O'Brien chose not to play any of his own pieces, but he did include a couple by one of his favorite writers, Tadd Dameron: "The Squirrel" (a blues) and "Our Delight." Both tunes elicited energy and direction from the band. "Fine and Dandy" with the Charlie Parker head featured Kreibich both as soloist and in exchanges with O'Brien. Horace Silver's "Strollin'" went on for chorus after chorus of imaginative single-note piano lines. O'Brien resisted the common temptation of a cheap Erroll Garner imitation on Garner's "Passin' Thru," a tune from O'Brien's new CD Have Piano Will Swing (Fresh Sound). Instead he took his inspiration from Garner's energy and built his approach on breaks that heightened tension and forward momentum. "A Gal in Calico" featured pedaled block chords a la Red Garland. O'Brien's uncrowded, single-note improv again had his audience smiling and shaking their heads.
Westin Hotel Los Angeles, CA. Hod O'Brien, piano; Jeff Littleton, bass; Paul Kreibich, drums.

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