The Swing Set 12/12/2002
Stephanie Nakasian and Hod O'Brien play a tribute to June Christy.
Thursday, December 12, 2002
Stephanie Nakasian has swing. It''s the indefinable quality that has landed her the gig as singer with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band (whose show is syndicated on over 200 stations internationally), and it''s what made her so attractive to her partner, Hod O''Brien, himself no musical slouch. O''Brien started jazzing his way to fame in the late ''50s, playing piano behind such greats as Chet Baker. Since the Nakasian and O''Brien team came together in 1980, they''ve toured around the world, collecting fans and winning awards.
Now they''re coming to Carmel to present a concert in honor of June Christy, the legendary jazz vocalist who died in 1990. Famous for her sunny style and cool jazz sound, Christy recorded into the ''70s but will always be associated most with the 1950s. Honoring Christy''s memory is something Nakasian is passionate about, having previously sung a tribute concert to a sold-out crowd at the Jazz West Coast festival. In fact, part of Nakasian''s appeal is her ability to sincerely replicate the feel of other great vocalists like Peggy Lee and Helen Ward. Her historical take on jazz as an art form has also led her to do a "Great Ladies of American Song" revue that traces the evolution of jazz from Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday to Broadway, bebop and everything in between. Critics have compared her original work to Ella Fitzgerald''s and Sarah Vaughan''s.
O''Brien''s credentials speak for themselves; almost 50 years in the industry have solidified his reputation among those in the know as one who has dallied with greatness. He was invited to play with the Oscar Pettiford Quartet at the tender age of 21, opening his own club, The St. James Infirmary, in the ''70s to host Zoot Sims, Charlie Rouse and others.
Both Nakasian and O''Brien are listed in the New Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz for their individual achievements. Combined, they make music that garners admiration and praise the world over. Their partnership is more than just professional, however. Their eight-year old daughter Veronica lives with them in Charlottesville, Va. when they''re not touring. Lucky girl. Her parents'' music is cool.
Stephanie Nakasian and Hod O''Brien play Saturday at 7pm at the Jazz and Blues Company, 236 Crossroads Blvd., Carmel. 624-6432.