Pianist Walter “Hod” O’Brian dies at 80

Walter "Hod" O'Brian

WALTER “Hod” O’BRIEN, 80, on Nov. 20 in Lake Monticello, VA following a long battle against cancer. Pianist, composer and bandleader, he studied at the Oberlin Conservatory and Manhattan School of Music and began playing professionally in 1950. Over the years he accompanied the likes of Oscar Pettiford, Phil Woods, Chet Baker, Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, among others.

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In 1964, he enrolled at Columbia University where he studied mathematics and psychology and then took a position in computer programming at New York University, where he also studied computer music.

In the mid-1970s, he ran the St. James Infirmary jazz club in New York City and taught at the Turtle Bay Music School (and at the University of Virginia in the 1990s). He was married to vocalist Stephanie Nakasian. His style was described as “long, fluid lines of improvisation; strong, but swinging drive and pulse; melodic and entertaining.”

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