Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 22 January 1921, Paris; d there 1 November 2011) Composer and writer. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Olivier Messiaen (and won three first prizes), played violin from '42 (as Claude Laurence) with such artists as Django Reinhardt and Kenny Clarke, recording for Swing; four tracks under Clarke's name '48 were reissued on French EMI's Jazz Time. But none of these arrangements was Hodeir's; the first fully his own was 'Autour d'un Récif' '49, recorded by Tony Proteau's band. He stopped playing and wrote music '54-60 for the Jazz Groupe de Paris, which often included reedman Bobby Jaspar (b 20 February 1926, Liège; d 4 March 1963, NYC). Hodeir's arrangements were also heard on Jazz Et Jazz/ Les Tripes Au Soleil on Fontana (various tracks from '52 and '59-60), the Kenny Clarke Sextet album Plays André Hodeir '56 on Philips, Essais '57 on Savoy (aka American Jazzmen Play Hodeir, a nonet recorded in NYC with Annie Ross on one track, and including Jaspar, Idrees Sulieman, Donald Byrd, Hal McKusick etc; this was a 'First Book Of Essays', and there was also a Savoy LP The Paris Scene of a Second Book played by Le Jazz Groupe. He took part in the historic Donaueschingen jazz concert '57: the Modern Jazz Quartet, Hodeir's Jazz Groupe de Paris and the Big Band of South-West German radio directed by Eddie Sauter were there, and the MJQ were struck by the attentiveness of the audience, not being used to jazz fans with such good manners. (An album of the concert was issued 20 years later.) As a composer/ arranger of third stream music Hodeir brought classical techniques to it, especially the use of counterpoint; he also wrote music for about 60 films, but his best-known composition was Anna Livia Plurabelle, a setting from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake for two singers and 23 players, recorded on Epic c'66 and by Patrice Caratini '93 on Label Bleu. Also notable are 'Bitter Ending' ('72 on Epic), 'Jazz Cantata' '60 and 'Détails', a piece for unaccompanied vibraharp which remains unperformed because of its complexity. His music is ingenious formally while including plenty of good solos. 'Oblique' (on Philips) is a canon with the baritone sax one bar behind the alto in a 32-bar theme which goes through five different keys; 'On A Blues' (on Savoy) has a long solo by Jaspar gradually submerged by a riff which increases in volume and weight, but is also changing in shape, harmony and orchestration. The composer was also unafraid to write variants on Thelonious Monk, e.g. on 'Bemsha Swing' (on Philips), which also included superb piano by Martial Solal, as do 'Oblique' and others including the '56 Hodeir/ Clarke sessions.

Hodeir was the editor of Jazz Hot '47-50; as one of the most challenging writers on jazz he was one of the first to bring the rigorous techniques of serious music criticism to it, demonstrating both that it could be done and that the best jazz deserved it. His best known books were (translated as) Jazz: Its Evolution And Essence '56, Toward Jazz '62 and The Worlds Of Jazz '72. Toward Jazz is a collection of essays in which he nominated Gil Evans as the successor to Duke Ellington, and made distinctions between composing (Ellington), arranging (Ernie Wilkins), tune writing (Fats Waller) and theme writing (Monk). These distinctions are more interesting than they appear at first; Monk's themes for example are further defined as structures. Hodeir published this collection with notes on ways in which he had changed his mind, referring to the 'formidable wager' which the serious musician must take up. Later essays take up the nature of early jazz and 'cool' jazz without any kowtowing to orthodoxy, becoming ever more incisive and original. Serious reading on the subject could start with Hodeir.

Christiane Legrand, Michel's sister, who recorded with Hodier in the late 1950s and early '60s, died on the same day, aged 81.