The singular pianist / singer / archivist / entertainer Frederick Hodges describes what he does as “Sophisticated and Jazzy Piano Stylings of the Great American Songbook,” and it is a reassuring example of truth in advertising.
I had not encountered him in person before last spring’s Stomptime cruise in the Eastern Caribbean, but he dazzled us all. He is an elegant personage who likes to amuse as well as play music: there is nothing stuffy about him, and he has all the characteristics of a great entertainer, whether he is recounting a comic anecdote, whipping up and down the keyboard, singing in English (or occasionally in another tongue): he’s a complete show in himself.
His piano style is at once ornate and swinging — a window into 1936 pop music and jazz when they were comfortable bedfellows. Those who don’t listen closely will hear only the ornamentation, impressive in itself: those who pay closer attention will hear a very precise artist who draws on varied inspirations for his own brightly shining result. You can hear ragtime and stride and “cocktail piano” in his work — and the admiring shades of Fats Waller and Eubie Blake. He also has listened closely to the duo-piano teams of the last century, and can make you believe there is another person on the piano bench.
Here, he makes KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW gleam:
With Steve Pikal, string bass, and Dick Maley, drums, he dances through LADY BE GOOD, a performance framed by characteristic puckishness:
another classic, PENNIES FROM HEAVEN:
Perhaps the most famous Gershwin tune, I GOT RHYTHM:
Some more Fats (in the daylight, hence the change of hue):
And a Eubie Blake extravaganza, properly titled:
Frederick also plays well with others: (Nate Ketner, reeds; Marc Caparone, trumpet; Clint Baker, trombone; Sam Rocha, string bass; Danny Coots, drums) on the TIN ROOF BLUES. Slow-moving dancers (or are they ships docking?) impede our view of the band but the music comes through:
and the beloved ROYAL GARDEN BLUES by the same bunch:
He’s a singular musician, a remarkable personality.
May your happiness increase!