Remembering Jodie Christian: Modest giant of Chicago jazz

It wasn't until the latter years of his career that Christian made his recording debut as leader, with the 1992 album "Experience," earning much-delayed critical praise for its inventive solo tracks, subtle trio passages and, of all things, some remarkable whistling. Subsequent recordings with various collaborators, such as "Rain or Shine" (1994), "Soul Fountain" (1998) and "Reminiscing" (2001) documented the range of his work.

For Friday night's homage at West Pullman Park, tenor saxophonist Ron Blake and others will join Goode and de la Cerna in performing Christian originals, jazz standards that the pianist loved to play and music inspired by him.

The latter includes Horace Silver's classic "The Jody Grind," says Goode, who believes the name was misspelled on Silver's famous album.

"I had a chance to meet Horace with Jodie" at a Chicago jam session long ago, recalls Goode. "And they were hanging out, reminiscing, telling stories. I didn't realize that they were really close friends.

"And later I asked Jodie, 'Hey, is that tune written for you?'" adds Goode, referring to "The Jody Grind."

"And, reluctantly, he said, 'Yes, it is.'"

If that's the case, Christian's muted acknowledgment was thoroughly in character for a most unassuming piano giant.

"Remembering Jodie Christian" starts at 7 p.m. Friday at West Pullman Park, 401 W. 123d St.; presented by the non-profit Jazz Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Park District as part of the JazzCity series; free; 312-427-1676 or jazzinchicago.org.

Frank D'Rone farewell

The life of the great Chicago singer-guitarist Frank D'Rone, who died last Thursday at age 81 in his Wheaton home, will be celebrated from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Rago Brothers Funeral Home, 7751 W. Irving Park Rd.; 773-276-7800. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, 8450 N. Shermer Rd., Niles.

To read more from Howard Reich on jazz, go to chicagotribune.com/reich

hreich@tribune.com

Twitter @howardreich

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