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A night of jazz to support the work of artisans

Hod O’Brien – a great name for a jazz pianist, isn’t it? You can smell the smoke in the air at the lounge at the drop of the words. Chances are you hadn’t heard the name before, unless you’re in the jazz cognoscenti, in which case you got out of your chair and bowed in the direction of Albemarle County to pay homage to the underground jazz legend.

His new sidekick fights the urge to do the same.

“I’m just happy to be on stage with him,” said Jim Wray, who joined with O’Brien to form the jazz-piano duo 2×88 earlier this year, earning himself a rebuke from O’Brien. “You’re a great pianist in your own right. Don’t let anybody tell you differently,” said O’Brien, who will team up with Wray in the opening act at Artisan Night: Jazz Under the Stars, a gala benefit event for the Artisans Center of Virginia set for Saturday, June 6, from 6:30 p.m. to midnight at the Ix Event Space in Charlottesville.

The gala is being headlined by Jazz Collective #9 with special guest appearances by Wolcott & Lander and Laurence Elder, a “heavy-duty jazzer” who relocated to Charlottesville from Miami three years ago and has become a fixture on the local jazz scene.

“Charlottesville has such a great arts scene. There’s a nice vibe here,” said Elder, whose music is reminiscent of Sting, Bruce Hornsby, a little Ben Folds. Trained in jazz, Elder added commercial and pop elements to his music when he began writing his own material, “pulling from all the influences of growing up listening to everything from Led Zeppelin to Mozart. It was sort of a culmination of the jazz training and growing up listening to different styles,” Elder said.

The Artisans Center event will bring the local jazz scene to life for people who might not necessarily know what they have at their disposal here in their backyard. “I’m constantly amazed, to tell you the truth,” said Gary Funston, a member of the board of directors of the Charlottesville Jazz Society who has hosted his own weekly jazz show on WTJU-FM in Charlottesville for 18 years. “We have several musicians here in Charlottesville who could easily make it in New York City. And then you’ve got a tier just below that who are incredibly talented people making a living teaching, playing, touring. It’s a rich scene here,” Funston said.

I lean toward the Hod O’Brien ’50s-influenced bebop sounds personally, but there’s plenty out there, from O’Brien’s bebop to Elder’s jazz pop and everything else in between, to satisfy any hardcore jazz jones.



WHAT: Artisan Night: Jazz Under the Stars, a gala benefit event for the Artisans Center of Virginia

WHEN: Saturday, June 6, 6:30 p.m. to midnight

WHERE: The Ix Event Space, 955 Second St. SE, Charlottesville

LINEUP: 2X88 featuring Hod O’Brien and Jim Wray, Jazz Collective #9, Wolcott & Lander, Laurence Elder

COST: Tickets: $50 per person

INFO: 434.296.7915, www.artisanscenterofvirginia.org


– Story by Chris Graham



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