Hod O'Brien

Decades: 1980s 1990s 2000s


Walter Howard O’Brien, 19 January 1936, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Although his family, on his mother’s side, was musical, O’Brien was adopted when only six-weeks old. Fortunately, however, his adoptive parents were also musically inclined and he began playing piano as a child, listening to records by the stride and boogie pianists popular in the early 40s. Interviewed in 2001 by Jazz Journal International’s Gordon Jack, O’Brien declared that by the time he was 14 he was ‘hooked on bebop through listening to JATP records’. Influenced by, among others, Billy Taylor and Hank Jones, he studied both privately and at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. Later influences included Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris and Claude Williamson, through whom he began to fully appreciate the work of Bud Powell. O’Brien began playing professionally at the start of the 50s, mostly in the north-eastern states where he also...

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