Every art form has a history of deserving artists who are never recognized. Pianist Jodie Christian (Feb. 2,1932-Feb, 13, 2012) was one of the best kept secrets in jazz, the American classical music within the idiom of jazz. Christian’s name alone was rare enough to remain a lasting memory. Although a private man who rarely gave interviews, I had many opportunities to speak with him during our mutual clinic days at the VA Hospital. His demeanor remained the same as he spoke quietly while holding his hand to his mouth. Talking about Jazz.
Jodie’s performance was real, earthly, and ran through all emotions. His music spoke volumes. There was much coming from this creator, so much that at times one had the feeling of being introduced to his thoughts. I remember Jodie from the early days at the Hungry Eye club which was located on north Wells Street. When I heard him again recently, I recalled how just how beautiful he was.
Jodie was a brilliant pianist who had been critically touted since the mid-1950s. His music ranged from the traditional to the unconventional, from Parker to Harris to AACM and on. He worked with a roster of top jazz players including Dexter Gordon, Eddie Harris, Von and George Freeman, Ken Chaney, Ari Brown, Art Pepper, Stan Getz, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Clark Terry and an endless list of others.
Jodie Christian, a pianist who developed the mastery of form and improvisation, had high standards for himself and his peers. Long live Jodie, a beautiful man among men.
Al Carter-Bey, WHPK 88.5 FM, Chicago.