Imagine this: You spend part of your evening reading a new book about the legendary lower Manhattan jazz jam session scene of the late '50s and early '60s. Later, you stroll down the street to your neighborhood saloon, and there, sitting at the piano, is one of the people you've just been reading about. It can only happen in New York.
Except when it happens in a small college town in Virginia.
Hod O'Brien at Fellini's #9, Charlottesville, Virginia, 19 March 2010.
The book is The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957-1965, and the musician is Hod O'Brien.
Hod's a wonderful pianist, one of the unsung heroes of be-bop. When he was only 21, he took over the piano chair in Oscar Pettiford's Quintet, after Bill Evans left the group. From there, he went on to play with Elvin Jones, Wilbur Ware, Chet Baker, Zoot Sims, and many others. He'd probably be better known if he hadn't interrupted his jazz career, for about a decade, to work as a statistical analyst in psychological research.
Stephanie Nakasian and Hod O'Brien at Fellini's #9, Charlottesville, Virginia, 19 March 2010.
Last night, Hod was performing with his wife, Stephanie Nakasian. Stephanie teaches jazz vocals at the University of Virginia, has recorded with the likes of Phil Woods, and performed with everyone from Jon Hendricks and Milt Hinton to Bobby McFerrin and Pat Metheny. To put it another way, she's terrific.
Stephanie Nakasian at Fellini's #9, Charlottesville, Virginia, 19 March 2010.
Great music, a friendly crowd, lots of fun. It turns out that this sort of thing happens on a regular basis around here. Big city refugees, home-grown talent, and the presence of the University of Virginia make this a fine little town for jazz.