Performer Profiles: Hod O’Brien

What/who are your musical influences?
My first influences were the Boogie Woogie guys and then Nat Cole, Errol Garner, George Shearing,
Billy Taylor of the early 50’s era. Bud Powell and his disciples (i.e. Red Garland, Hank Jones, Barry
Harris, Tommy Flanagan) and then Dave McKenna and also the Jazz at the Philharmonic Era recordings.

What have been your musical highlights/accomplishments over the last year?
Returning to the NY jazz scene (i.e. playing at Small’s and Mezzrow’s jazz clubs) after many years of
not leading my own groups there (since Bradley’s days) has been a great development of the past

Where do you see Traditional Jazz in today’s musical landscape? Its’ influences & importance?
There are several musical styles being called “Jazz” these days. I don’t agree with all of them. Even
though ballads don’t swing I general, I like to include at least one or two in my performances and
like to call them Jazz. But in general, for me, the music must swing in order to be called jazz, and I think
Traditional Jazz swings hard. I started out playing Dixieland and Swing before switching to Bebop,
then later discovered Dave McKenna, who brought me back to the Swing and earlier music styles.

What separates the North Carolina Jazz Festival from other festivals that you have participated in?
The NC Jazz Festival has always concentrated on the earlier music of Dixieland and Swing Eras,
Whereas other festivals I have performed in, such as the Kool Jazz Festival, The Toronto Jazz Festival, The COTA Festival in the Delaware Water Gap, or Joe Siegal’s Jazz Cruises are more into Bebop and
Mainstream repertoire and even Blues. I like the NC Festival because I like the Repertoire and the camaraderie and the music always swings and the people get it.

What has been your most memorable moment performing on stage?
My most memorable stage performances: 100 Goldfingers Tour in Japan in 2007 with 9 other piano players Kenny Barron, Benny Green, Cyrus Chestnut, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Cedar Walton, Junior Mance, Joao Donato, Gerald Clayton and Don Friedman), and a duo concert with Barry Harris in 1995 (which
was recorded). In my early days there was a concert with Oscar Pettiford and Paul Chambers on the bandstand at the same time in 1958 which was amazing too! There are 50 years of great musical moments in my memories – those are a few.

Anything else that you would like to add?
I’d like to add that my entry to the recording world was in 1957, when I was asked to play on the now
classic “Three Trumpets” record with Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, and Idrees Sulieman. My recordings
speak well for my career, covering music I’ve done with Chet Baker, J.R.Monterose, Rene Thomas,
Ted Brown, Warne Marsh, Roswell Rudd, and many wonderful trio sessions, as well as my collaborations
with Stephanie and Veronica on their CDs. They call it “records” – these are the “records” of my life.