Sunday, October 25, 2009

Herbie Nichols

So while I am on the subject of jazz artists who died in their forties from leukemia, I might as well mention Herbie Nichols.  Nichols was a piano player and composer.  He is more famous than Thomas Chapin, but left a rather more limited set of documents.  Here is something that has to say:
Composer and pianist Herbie Nichols’ inquisitive spirit lives on amongst a growing group of young followers, and in the spirit of every jazz musician who struggles to cultivate an individual sound within the din of the marketplace. An innovator equal in powers to Bud Powell or Thelonious Monk, he spent most of his career working in bands whose music was less adventurous than his own.
Well, an innovator equal to Bud Powell maybe.  But equal to Monk?  That's absurd.  Nichols is generally considered to have been a fine composer, but he didn't record much as leader and his partisans are still trying to bring his work into the mainstream.  I have the box set Herbie Nichols: The Complete Blue Note Recordings.  It's a fine collection, both in terms of composition and in terms of down right compelling piano work.  

One jazzman who has championed Nichols' work is Roswell Rudd.  Unfortunately, Rudd is an acquired taste on his own.  If Nichols is to get his spot in the spotlight, it might not be Rudd who does it for him.  But The Unheard Herbie Nichols is worth a listen.  

Here is a sample of Nichols, playing his most famous composition.  
Herbie Nichols/Lady Sings the Blues/The Complete Blue Note Recordings

And here is a cut from Rudd's tribute:
Roswell Rudd Trio/Prancin' Pretty Woman/The Unheard Herbie Nichols

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