One of jazz's most tragically overlooked geniuses, Herbie Nichols was a highly original piano stylist and a composer of tremendous imagination and eclecticism. He wasn't known widely enough to exert much influence in either department, but his music eventually attracted a rabid cult following, though not quite the wide exposure it deserved. Nichols was born January 3, 1919, in New York and began playing piano at age nine, later studying at C.C.N.Y. After serving in World War II, Nichols played with a number of different groups and was in on the ground floor of the bebop scene. However, to pay the bills he later focused on Dixieland ensembles; his own music -- a blend of Dixieland, swing, West Indian folk, Monk-like angularity, European classical harmonies via Satie and Bartók, and unorthodox structures -- was simply too unclassifiable and complex to make much sense to jazz audiences of the time. Mary Lou Williams was the first to record a Nichols composition -- "Stennell," retitled "Opus Z," in 1951; yet aside from the song he wrote for Billie Holiday, "Lady Sings the Blues," none of Nichols' work got enough attention to really catch on. He signed with Blue Note and recorded three brilliant piano trio albums from 1955-1956, adding another one for Bethlehem in late 1957. Nichols languished in obscurity after those sessions, though; sadly, just when he was beginning to find a following among several of the new thing's adventurous, up-and-coming stars, he was stricken with leukemia and died on April 12, 1963. In the years that followed, Nichols became a favorite composer in avant-garde circles, with tributes to his sorely neglected legacy coming from artists like Misha Mengelberg and Roswell Rudd. He also inspired a repertory group, called the Herbie Nichols Project, and most of his recordings were reissued on CD. ~ Steve Huey
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1956 | Blue Note Records
Herbie Nichols occupies a special place on the podium of unfairly forgotten heroes in the history of jazz. This virtuoso, who died of leukaemia at the age of 44, was an innovative pianist with lyrical and rhythmic melodies that were very original for their time. Fascinated by Thelonious Monk, he found his own sound by mixing influences as disparate as Dixieland, Caribbean and classical music by the likes of Bartók or Satie. His transition to Blue Note led to three trio albums: The Prophetic Herbie Nichols Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (recorded in May 1955 with Al McKibbon on double bass and Art Blakey on drums) and this one, Herbie Nichols Trio (recorded in August 1955 and April 1956 with Teddy Kotick and Al McKibbon on double bass and Max Roach on drums). In 1957, Herbie Nichols recorded his last record for Bethlehem Records - Love, Gloom, Cash, Love - before falling into oblivion and being eaten away by the illness that took over his life in April 1963... Years later, avant-garde musicians like Misha Mengelberg, Roswell Rudd and Steve Lacy helped bring his music back into the public eye. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
Jazz - Released January 28, 2014 | Bethlehem Records
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