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Hod O’Brien

Hod O'Brien

In 1957, a 21-year-old Hod O’Brien replaced pianist Bill Evans in Oscar Pettiford’s band. Evans had been performing “strange things” on the keyboard, so the bassist welcomed the orthodox bop sound of O’Brien. It was the pianist’s first big break. It was also the last time he would be replacing Bill Evans.

Evans, of course, would go on to change the way pianists played jazz. In his quiet, halting career, O’Brien stuck with the sound that got him in the Pettiford band so many years ago. “Bebop has always been in my gut,” O’Brien says, now 69. “I flirted with some other things, but I always came back to bebop.”

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