Friends of Hod O’Brien report that the pianist died yesterday at 80 following a long battle against cancer. He continued an active playing life even as he underwent treatment for the disease.
Born in Chicago, O’Brien attended Oberlin Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music. He became active in New York jazz circles in the 1950s. Early in his career, he worked with Oscar Pettiford and the J.R. Monterose-Elvin Jones group. As house pianist at a club on Staten Island, he backed soloists including Lee Konitz, Charlie Rouse Phil Woods and Freddie Hubbard. He was the pianist on the Three Trumpets album of Art Farmer, Donald Byrd and Idrees Sulieman. Stylistically flexible, O’Brien over the years accompanied a range of artists that encompassed, among others, Chet Baker, Archie Shepp, Sheila Jordan and the former Duke Ellington drummer Sonny Greer.
In this performance recorded at the New York club Mezzrow in mid-September of this year, the nattily chapeaued O’Brien and his trio play Victor Shertzinger’s “I Remember You.” The guitarist is Joe Cohn, the bassist David Wong.
O’Brien was married to singer Stephanie Nakasian, with whom he frequently performed. Their daughter, also a vocalist, performs under the name Veronica Swift. He leaves an extensive legacy of recordings.
A date for services has not been announced.
Hod O’Brien, RIP.