Hod O’Brien 1936 – 2016
So far, we have broadcast ninety-nine one-hour programs to tell the story of the first 100 years of recorded jazz. We have heard the creative work of hundreds of players, composers, arrangers, and bandleaders – famous and obscure. Each of the contributors to this rich history had colleagues and bandmates with whom they played as they grew up and matured; teachers formal and informal; and mentors. They played in basements, living rooms, classrooms, high school gyms, churches, clubs and theaters. They were part of a local scene. All jazz is local.
In this, the final, hour of Jazz at 100, we will celebrate the local scene … our local scene … the wonderful jazz scene of Charlottesville, Virginia. Current jazz in Charlottesville in the final hour of Jazz at 100.
John D’earth, Robert Jospé and the Free Bridge Quintet.
In the early eighties, trumpeter John D’earth, drummer Robert Jospé and vocalist Dawn Thompson relocated to Charlottesville from New York and nurtured a vibrant scene. They played around town, toured and joined the performance faculty at the University of Virginia. D’earth and Jospé were founding members of the faculty jazz quintet – the Free Bridge Quintet – along with Charlottesville-native bassist Pete Spaar (who first had the idea for the group) saxophonist Jeff Decker, and pianist Bob Hallahan. Wells Hanley took over the piano chair briefly and in 2013, pianist Butch Taylor a long-time player in Charlottesville, recently of the Dave Matthews Band, joined the quintet. In the first set we will be featuring recent music of members of the Free Bridge Quintet – John D’earth, Jeff Decker, Butch Taylor, Pete Spaar and Robert Jospé.
Goodbye Secret King (For LeRoi Moore). John D’Earth Quintet
(John D’Earth-tp, JC Kuhl-ts, Wells Hanley-p, Pete Spaar-b, Devonne Harris-d). From On. 2013.
All the players in this quintet have played in John D’earth’s Band that plays Thursday night at Millers, famous as the venue where Dave Matthews was a bartender and where several of his band members, including the late LeRoi Moore, played regularly in the 1980s.
Composed by John D’earth.
Blue Wave. Jeff Decker Quartet
(Jeff Decker-ts, Anthony Dowd-p, Randall Pharr-b, Aaron Binder-d, Madeline Holly Sales-voc). From Blue Wave. 2018.
Jeff Decker’s quartet consists of Central Virginia players including Madeline Holly Sales, who is often heard in the duo Belezia with husband Berto Sales. Drummer Aaron Binder grew up in Charlottesville where he studied with Robert Jospé in high school. Randall Pharr studied classical bass with Pete Spaar in college. Anthony Dowd of nearby Richmond, Virginia is on piano.
Tenor Madness. Robert Jospé Express
(Butch Taylor-key, Dane Alderson-b, Robert Jospé-d). From Classics. 2014.
The Express is a trio of Robert Jospé on drums, Butch Taylor on keyboards, and a young 6-string electric bass player, Dane Anderson, who plays in a variety of settings around town when not recording or touring with the Yellow Jackets.
Quality of Life.
Like D’earth and Jospé, many prominent players have relocated to Charlottesville from New York, to take advantage of the great quality of life and stimulating jazz scene. One of the players in highest demand is the great tenor player Charles Owens who relocated to Charlottesville in 2001. Muse and HighNote recording artist guitarist Randy Johnston, who has recorded extensively with Houston Person, has more recently established himself as an important contributor to the scene.
UMMG. Charles Owens Trio
(Charles Owens-ts, Andrew Randazzo-b, Devonne Harris-d). From A Day With Us. 2/27/2015.
Charles Owens’ trio-mates are Richmond Virgina-based bassist Andrew Randazzo and drummer Devonne Harris, both also members of the band Butcher Brown who opened for Kamasi Washington during his 2018 tour. Charles plays in the quartet Onyx Manor with bassist Dane Alderson, organist Jonah Kane-West and drummer Michael Taylor and leads a trio with Dane and drummer Kelli Strawbridge.
10th Street Northwest. Jonah Kane-West Trio
(Jonah Kane-West-org, Randy Johnston-g, Aaron Binder-d). From One Hit at Bobby’s. 2016. In addition to guitarist Randy Johnston, the trio includes Charlottesville-natives organist Jonah Kane-West and drummer Aaron Binder.
The Family O’Brien – Nakasian – Swift.
Bebop-piano great Hod O’Brien and vocalist Stephanie Nakasian, who had toured with Jon Hendricks, moved to Charlottesville to raise their daughter Veronica. Hod and Steph have a deep catalog of recordings together and independently. Both taught at the University and Steph was a long-time announcer at WTJU. Hod passed away in 2016 and is missed by all. In addition to internalizing a lifetime of music at home, Veronica grew up musically in Greg Thomas’ Albemarle High School Jazz Band. She moved to New York to establish her career, has been recording extensively and most recently has been singing with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. She is now based in Charlottesville.
Sweet Georgia Brown. Hod O’Brien Trio with Stephanie Nakasian
(Hod O’Brien-p, Michael Hawkins-b, Billy Williams-d, Stephanie Nakasian-voc). From It Don’t Mean a Thing. 1/13/2011.
Hod House. Veronica Swift Quartet
(Emmet Cohen-p, Daryl Johns-b, Scott Lowrie-d, Veronica Swift-voc). From Lonely Woman. 6/22 – 6/23/2015.
John D’earth and the UVa Jazz Ensemble.
John D’earth has been directing the UVa Jazz Ensemble, a student big band, for more than two decades. Many of his students are actively involved in music across the country. Recently two of his alumni, pianist Kait Dunton and drummer Jack Kilby have produced recording projects that have featured John.
Jack Kilby, who studied with Robert Jospé while at UVa teamed with fellow Jazz Ensemble alum, bassist Kris Monson, formerly a student of Pete Spaar’s, and Washington pianist Allyn Johnson in the rhythm section, while the front line was New York trombonist Elad Cohen with Charlottesville’s Charles Owens and John D’earth. The line-up brings to mind classic Blue Note ensembles like the Jazz Messengers and Kilby’s arrangements follow suit.
Love Is A Song Anyone Can Sing. Jack Kilby and the Front Line
(John D’earth-tp, Elad Cohen-tb, Charles Owens-ts, Allyn Johnson-p, Kris Monson-b, Jack Kilby-d). From Love Is A Song Anyone Can Sing. 9/7 – 9/8/2018.
Composed by Charles Owens.
Kait Dunton’s steady gig is the LA-based TrioKait, a tight piano trio that has released two highly regarded discs. Her latest effort, an homage to her friend and mentor John D’earth, consists of her compositions and D’earth’s for a quartet of the two of them, her husband, trio-mate and drummer Jake Reed and Charlottesville’s Dane Alderson on bass – hand-picked by D’earth for the project. As she writes in the liner notes “This record is about time and story, and the threads that connect us. But it also documents one planetary alignment in particular: a musical convergence with Planet D’earth.”
Planet D’earth. Kait Dunton – John D’Earth – Dane Alderson – Jake Reed Quartet
(John D’earth-tp/flh, Kait Dunton-p, Dane Alderson-b, Jake Reed-d + Andrew Synowiec-g). From Planet D’earth. 8/9 – 8/10/2017
Composed by Kait Dunton.
This has been brief introduction to the jazz scene in Charlottesville, Virginia. My apologies to many players who were not featured. It became obvious that we could and should create a series that covers the Charlottesville creative music scene in all of its depth and variety. In this hour we chose to highlight some of the leaders of the local jazz scene who have created such interest and vibrancy around the music over recent decades, and some of the younger, emerging artists. There is so much more to recognize.
Our scene illustrates many characteristics of health – a multi-generational collection of players who play in a variety of combinations, inspiring secondary school and college academic teaching and playing, reliable venues, supportive fans and jazz on the radio. Local scenes like ours are key to the vitality of jazz and always have been. All jazz is local.
Thanks and Credit Where it is Due.
And with that, Jazz at 100 comes to a close. For 100 programs, we have outlined the history of 100 years of recorded jazz. My colleagues at WTJU have made this possible and have enriched the offering – Nathan Moore our General Manager, Lewis Reining – Producer, Gayle Poirier in the office, David Eisenman – Jazz Director and announcers past and present, Brian Keena, Gary Funston, Hal Dean, Steve Huff, and Dave Rogers.
I deeply appreciate the contributions to the series from musicians Art Wheeler, John D’earth, Robert Jospé, Pete Spaar, Jeff Decker, and Stephanie Nakasian and writer Brendan Wolfe. My teacher, tenor saxophonist Charles Owens has expanded my understanding of this amazing music.
In preparing this series I read many books in addition to listening to countless hours of music. Among many others, I particularly commend to you the work of jazz historians Scott DeVeaux (also of Charlottesville), Gary Giddins, Ted Gioia and Joachim-Ernst Berendt; critics Brian Morton, Richard Cook and Ben Ratliff; and the amazing website, AllAboutJazz.
It has been my great pleasure to share this story with you. A final thanks to my most supportive listeners – my mother Joy Perry and especially my wife Jeanette Rosenberg who has shared my jazz journey for more than 45 years!
John D’earth. On. Cosmology 2013
Jeff Decker. Blue Wave. Self Produced
Robert Jospé Express. Classics. Inner Rhythm Music
Charles Owens Trio. A Day With Us. Jellowstone Records
Jonah Kane-West. One Hit At Bobby’s. Self Produced
Hod O’Brien Trio. It Don’t Mean a Thing. Spice of Life SOL SV 0017
Veronica Swift. Lonely Woman. HodStef 004
Jack Kilby and the Front Line. Love is a Song Anyone Can Sing. Self Produced
Kait Dunton – John D’Earth – Dane Alderson – Jake Reed . Plantet D’earth. Self Produced
Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100