Composer/Saxophonist/Educator Tim O'Dell has been called "The composer of Chicago" (Beyond Coltrane) and "A fine, new voice on alto - loose and swinging and broadly expressive" (Cadence). Born in Oregon in 1966 and raised in the Midwest, Tim relocated to the East Coast in 2001 from the Chicago scene. In Chicago, O’Dell records for Southport Records and has performed at the Jazz Showcase, the Hot House, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Velvet Lounge with many of the city’s finest musicians.
O’Dell’s three Southport albums as a leader - Dreams of Pangaea (for jazz orchestra, 2009), Ancient Pines (duets with bassist Tatsu Aoki, 2005) and Before My Life (for jazz sextet, 2001) - feature all original music by Tim and have received glowing, national acclaim. "Unexpectedly grand" (Chicago Sun Times) and "A perfect album" (Beyond Coltrane). A new, live Chicago album is forthcoming featuring the legendary, late tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson joined by O'Dell and Chicago stalwarts Tatsu Aoki and drummer Avreeayl Ra.
In 2012 the Tim O'Dell/Matt Langley Quartet, a New England group that performs all original compositions by Langley and O'Dell, released The Catalyst. “Quality of music is excellent . . . stunningly beautiful” (All About Jazz/New York). The 2013 trio album, At War’s End, features Tim's unique saxophone improvisations with the creative gifts of Tatsu Aoki and Boston drummer Luther Gray. O'Dell is currently working on new music for his latest project - PURSUIT. A New York City-centered 14 member ensemble, PURSUIT is dedicated to performing and recording O'Dell's, and co-leader Richard Nelson's, pan-stylistic compositions while featuring this unique ensemble's prodigious improvisational and creative gifts. “O’Dell designs hypnotic concepts that capture the imagination”
(All About Jazz).
A versatile, published composer, Tim O’Dell’s copious works range from string quartet to piano to voice to diverse chamber music to large jazz ensemble. Tim’s music has been broadcast worldwide and he has been invited to appear in Brazil, Japan, Switzerland, Portugal and Greece. “This is the sound of expanding American art” (All About Jazz). O'Dell has received project grants and awards from the Maine Arts Commission, Augustana College Research Foundation and Quad City Arts; and he has commissioned and premiered significant works himself - including Gunther Schuller's Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano and Andy Laster's Valori Plastici which Tim premiered in Manhattan with horn player R.J. Kelley and pianist Mick Rossi.
Active as a bandleader and saxophonist, O'Dell has performed in New York, Miami, Boston, greater New England, Chicago, throughout the Midwest and on NPR's JazzSet hosted by Branford Marsalis. Exceptionally versatile with extensive training in both classical and jazz idioms, Tim has performed professionally in myriad genres including symphony orchestras, Cuban bands, funk bands, classical chamber ensembles, pop/rock groups, diverse jazz ensembles and as a concert soloist. In addition to the album projects that O'Dell has led, he has been featured on nationally acclaimed projects led by Richard Nelson, Elijah Levi and Tatsu Aoki; and Tim has appeared on numerous studio recordings. Tim O'Dell has had the pleasure of performing with many renowned musicians (in addition to those previously mentioned) such as Gunther Schuller, Danilo Perez, Kevin Norton, Ryan Shultz, George Russell, Wycliffe Gordon, Cuong Vu, Louis Bellson, Muhal Richard Abrams, Bill McHenry, Tim Hagans, the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra and The Temptations. “The saxophonist is great” (Cadence).
O'Dell holds a Doctorate in Saxophone Performance from the University of Iowa, a Master of Music with Honors in Jazz Studies from the New England Conservatory and a Bachelor of Music with Honors in Saxophone with Jazz Emphasis from the University of Iowa. Tim has studied composition with George Russell, William Thomas McKinley, Donald Martin Jenni and Jimmy Giuffre; and has studied saxophone with George Garzone, Paul Scea, Ronald Tyree and Kenneth Radnofsky.
Artist Faculty and Lecturer at the University of Southern Maine since 2001, Dr. O'Dell also teaches saxophone at Bowdoin College and lectures at Southern Maine Community College. From 1993-2001, O'Dell was Assistant Professor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies at Augustana College in Illinois. Prior to Augustana, Tim held graduate teaching assistantships at the New England Conservatory (Founder/Director of the Jazz Composers' Ensemble) and at the University of Iowa (Jazz Studies and Saxophone). "A thinking man's player and composer" (Jazz Times).
Additionally, Tim is in demand as a clinician and adjudicator and maintains a thriving saxophone and composition studio out of his home in Brunswick, Maine where he lives with his wife and son.
Tatsu Aoki is a prolific artist, composer, musician, educator and a consummate bassist and Shamisen Lute player. Based in Chicago, Aoki works in a wide range of musical genres, ranging from traditional Japanese music, jazz, experimental and creative music.
Aoki was born in 1957 in Tokyo, Japan into an artisan family called TOYOAKI MOTO, traditionally categorized as OKIYA, meaning a booking and training agent for Geisha ladies in downtown Tokyo’s designated area. While the economy and social environment forced many of those traditional artisan family business to close down in the 60’s , Aoki was luckily able to receive some of the important essence of traditional Tokyo Geisha cultural training and studies at age 4, and became a part of the performing crew in early childhood. After his grand mother passed away, he had kept the Tokyo music training until early teen, and shifted his musical focus to American pop music and experimental music. Since his biological father was a movie producer at Shin Toho Studio, he had also began working in small gage films and started to produce experimental films.
Aoki was active performer during the early 70’s in the mist of Tokyo Underground Arts movement. Became a member of Japanese Experimental Music ensemble, GINTENKAI presenting mixture of traditional music and new western music. After coming to U.S. in 1977, Aoki studied experimental filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently an adjunct Full Professor at the Film, Video and New Media Department, and teaches film production and history courses. During the late 80’s, Aoki has become a leading advocate for Chicago's Asian American community and one of Chicago's most in-demand musicians on both contrabass, taiko (Japanese drums) and shamisen (Japanese lute). Working in film and music.
Under those environments of his childhood, Aoki has inherited historical and traditional essence of Tokyo Entertainment district’s musical concepts, basics and value of flexible creations and applications. With the fall of these special districts in the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Tokyo’s regional Entertainment musical concepts also disappears and as many other art form did, Tokyo Geisha music had institutionalized.
For Aoki, one of the most important goal is to preserve the original essence of fluidity and flexibility and perform rawness of REAL sound. He has adopted this idea to newer works as well.
To this date, Aoki has produced and appears in more than 90 recording projects and over 30 experimental films and working internationally. He is one of the most recorded artists in Chicago music scene. Among many of recordings, he has worked with musical masters and legends and produced remarkable duets works with bassist, Malachi Favors, multi instrumentalists such as Roscoe Mitchell, Don Moye and world renowned Pipa virtuoso, Wu Man and another Chicago legend, late Fred Anderson.
Using Taiko drumming as a signature, Aoki’s solo bass performances project BASSE LIVE and recordings are known for one of the most innovative approaches to the instrument internationally.
Aoki’s one of the most important ensemble works, ROOTED: Origins of Now, a 50 minute 4 movement suite, was performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival in September 2001. Because of this work, the Chicago Tribute recognized Tatsu Aoki as “Chicagoans of the Year.”, one of the group of Chicagoans who has contributed to the vitality and culture of Chicago by the Chicago Tribune or the City. The Chicago Tribune stated that Rooted had “come into its own as an eloquent, often dramatic merger of ancient Japanese music and experimental American jazz.” JAZZIZ, magazine, recognized Aoki one of one of many artists who has changed jazz since 1980." For his contribution to Chicago area arts, Asian American Institute has given Mile Stone Award in 2007, and Japan America Society of Chicago has given Cultural Achievement Award for his cultural activities in arts in Chicago land in 2010. He is also a recipient of 2010 3Arts Artist Award.
As an Executive Director of AIRMW, Aoki has initiated and managed several programs to advance the understanding of Asian American culture and community through the arts, including the Annual Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival and the Tsukasa Taiko Legacy arts residency project. His work as an artist and educator in the cultural arts and as a leader in the Asian American community address as well as define the issues facing the community, including the need for quality artistic programs that reflect the Asian American experience.
Jazz drummers, in general, are philosophers when contrasted with the dumb jock model often attributed to boomer era fossil rock. Mr. Gray is a thinking drummer with an expansive kindliness about him that shifts to striking capacities of concentration when he engages his kit.
One commonality I find with this run of drummers is their embrace of flow. Outside now a fat offshore slop front is busy soaking Boston and all the sounds of rain, downpour, focused splashing below the bad roof gutter, car tires mildly hydroplaning on Hampshire street and a syncopation of drippings adds up to some counterpart of flow drumming.
Luther also has water cascades, whitewater rapids and quiet frog splashes in vernal pools worked into the repertoire. Faucet splashes from urban sinks, a slow dripping leak and a morning shower are in there too as well as the various rounds of waves at oceanic edges...flow.
Tim O'Dell and Tatsu Aoki review excerpts:
"Pleasing set . . . The saxophonist is great . . . no wasted notes . . . Compelling music . . . This is fine, satisfying stuff."
Jason Bivins -- Cadence
"Agile minds . . . O'Dell is an open, lyrical player who can unfurl a wide range of ideas at a dizzying pace . . . appealing atmosphere . . . flows beautifully . . . O'Dell designs hypnotic concepts that capture the imagination . . . indelible spirit."
Jerry D'Souza -- All About Jazz
"This recording confirms the hopes we had placed on [O'Dell] . . . Probing excursions . . . On soprano, [O'Dell] skillfully avoids the saccharine tone that mars too many saxophonists . . . fiery dialogues . . . contemplative and lyrical communions . . . seamless and breezy . . . solid outing."
Alain Drouot -- Chicago Jazz Institute
"Lovely chamber jazz . . . They swing, experiment, solo comfortably, swing some more and interpret with creative passion . . . O'Dell soars lyrically with alto and soprano melodic sketches. Carrying a blues foundation and providing plenty of room for spontaneity, the program connects intuitively
with the audience . . . exotic flavors . . . They create impressions that let their audience travel through time and space."
Jim Santella -- All About Jazz
"Quality of music is excellent . . . "Rise and Fall" is a beautiful ballad that displays both Tim O'Dell's wonderful tone on soprano sax and Aoki's big, fat bass notes . . . unhurried duo musical communication . . . good soloing by the horns and swinging bass lines . . . "Old Growth" is stunningly beautiful."
Francis Lo Kee -- All About Jazz New York
"Unusual and well crafted . . . memorable . . . O'Dell and Aoki in top-notch form . . . creative sounds . . . remarkable . . . smooth, mellow approach which is enjoyable. . . "Ancient Pines Suite" is intense in scope and presentation, and there is much good to say about it, and its thematic structure. [Ancient Pines Suite] is a strong entry for anywhere and anytime . . . Wide base of appeal . . . a fine example of what can be creatively expressed . . . wide range and a wide scope, and it entertains . . . straight-ahead stylings add to its brilliance. Highly recommended jazz fusion!"
Lee Prosser -- Jazz Review.com
"O'Dell has a rich timbre and consistent vision . . . compelling terrain."
Marc Masters --Jazz Times
"Fans of Maria Schneider's big band work will enjoy O'Dell's arrangements . . . reminiscent of Gil Evans, especially at times in the coloring . . . solid charts that clearly call on tradition . . . modern elements infused, like funky bass on "Adverse Side Effects," fusionesque electric guitar by Steve Grismore on "Cirrus" and "Retrospection" . . . The interesting works are well-played by this ensemble."
-- Chicago Sound.com
". . . talented saxophonist . . . it would be interesting to hear Tim O'Dell's music interpreted by a major orchestra."
-- Jazz Times
"O’Dell’s compositions are thickly scored and rich in extended harmonies with close chordal relationships, such as those heard in the work of Thad Jones . . . shifting kaleidoscopic, quasi-psychedelic rhythms . . . an amalgamation of thoughtfully serious compositions for the modern big band that many times play on concepts usually utilized in classical music: large formal structures, the development of rhythmic motives, large timbral palettes and advanced harmonic configurations."
-- Jazz Review.com
"Saxophonist Tim O'Dell is passionate about large ensembles . . . unusual big band program includes free jazz, fusion and bebop . . . O'Dell pushes the envelope using the large ensemble to play multiple layers of jazz-fusion on "Epilogue Groove." The reflective vibe of "Retrospection" has an exotic character and the brass harmonies highlight "Mr. ID." Nice work!"
Oscar Groomes -- O's Place, Jazz.com
"A young, new master of the saxophone has arrived, and his name is Tim O'Dell . . . Before My Life is what contemporary jazz is all about and is a showcase of perfect performances."
Lee Prosser -- Jazz Review
" . . . Unexpectedly grand . . ."
Lloyd Sachs -- Chicago Sun Times
"Elton Dean. Tim Berne. Tim O'Dell. Welcome to the exclusive club of outstanding sax players/composers/improvisers . . . a perfect album . . . This disc is a great blend of composition and improvisation and it swings! . . . Before My Life has a uniqueness of vision. O'Dell is the composer of Chicago." -- Beyond Coltrane
" . . . A thinking man's player and composer . . ."
Owen Cordle -- JazzTimes
"This is a really fine recording, generous in terms of playing, with considered compositions and a ton of spirit."
Jason Bivins -- Cadence
" . . . Meditating on alto, Tim sounds like 'Trane did on Central Park West . . ."
John Barrett -- Jazz USA
"This is the sound of . . . expanding American art."
James Nichols -- All About Jazz
" . . . A fine new voice on alto . . . loose and swinging and broadly expressive . . ."
Stuart Broomer -- Cadence
"A trio of saxophone, bass and drums can opt for raw power or the potential for clarity that inheres in the form. This one opts for clarity, for spare rhythm in support of O'Dell's brisk linearity. The approach is rewarding on "Slow" and "All Things" when O'Dell's repeating phrases and strongly modal lines seem to fuse with Pavkovic and Aoki. O'Dell is a conscientious craftsman, a disciplined player with a strong sense of construction in his solos . . ."
Stuart Broomer -- Cadence