Russian-born Art Hodes, who came to the United States in 1904 when he was 6 months old, is one of a dwindling number of elder statesmen (and women) of jazz who are enjoying renewals of their careers in the current phoenix-like recovery of the music from the rock-dominated 1960s and early '70s.
He was described in a New Yorker magazine article two years ago as one of the greatest of all blues pianists; now he's recording again, recently concluded a 20-month run at the Mayfair Regent Hotel in Chicago, last year played his first New York gig in decades and did a two-week European tour in October. He will be in duo with world-famed bassist Milt Hinton Wednesday through Sunday at the Maryland Inn in Annapolis.
Hodes grew up "poor but proud" in Chicago's turbulent 20th Ward, where, he says, "it was a job trying to go to school without getting hit over the head with a sandbag." In common with many of the Chicago-based jazz artists of that day, Hodes played in clubs owned by prohibition gangsters and admits that "there'd have been no work for me if it hadn't been for those hood-type people who liked the music and hired us." When he wasn't playing he hung out with the likes of Louis Armstrong and Pee Wee Russell and, especially, the blues and boogie-woogie pianists down at the rib joint.