Herbie Nichols

Horatio Herbert "Herbie " Nichols (born 3 January or December 3, 1919 in New York City, † April 12, 1963 ) was an American jazz pianist and composer.

Life and work

At the age 7-14 learned Nichols, whose parents had immigrated from the Caribbean, classical piano and played classical music throughout his life - from Scarlatti to Bartók. He turned only to jazz when he realized that his African-American origin of a career as a concert pianist were a hindrance. Before Nichols 1941 his military service ableistete, he studied at the City College of New York and played in local bands such as the Red Baron Orchestra, although he had heard in 1938 in Clark Monroe's Uptown House in Harlem to the jazz musicians who prepared the Bebop. Then he was still employed at different bands of the Oldtime Jazz, among others, Herman Autrey, Hal Singer, Rex Stewart, Illinois Jacquet, and John Kirby. Also in the 1950s he played with Edgar Sampson, Arnett Cobb or Wilbur De Paris and rarely led his own groups. Alfred Lion, the Nichols had sent his own compositions, gave him the opportunity in 1955 finally system to merge his music in a trio for Blue Note Records; as the recordings were found to be poorly marketable, the contract was not renewed, although Lion Nichols particularly appreciated as pianist. Blue Note did not put him as a sideman. In the early 1960s he accompanied in the clubs singers like Sheila Jordan, who described him as " very good looking man, tall and dressed in mystery and always elegant." As discovered him free jazz musicians of the generation as Roswell Rudd or Archie Shepp, and brought with him 1960-1962 his compositions for the performance, he was already suffering fatal leukemia.

Nichols is one of those jazz musicians who found greater recognition until after her death; he was initially largely forgotten after his death in 1963. Its importance " as a link between Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor " was a growing awareness only by the younger generation from the 1980s through the activities about Misha Mengelberg, Roswell Rudd, Duck Baker and the Cooperative The Herbie Nichols Project by Frank Kimbrough and Ben Allison. Last appeared in 2012, the album Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols by Simon Nabatov.

With the exception of his play Serenade, which was provided by Billie Holiday with a text and came as Lady Sings the Blues into the standard repertoire, Nichols compositions have long been maintained only by a few musicians, alongside Rudd and Steve Lacy in particular by Misha Mengelberg and Buell Neidlinger, but also by Geri Allen and Dave Douglas. His original compositions have been performed only rarely in his lifetime, are in stark contrast to the traditional repertoire of swing, rhythm 'n' blues and Dixieland, with the Nichols earned his livelihood. He was strongly influenced by the composer Prokofiev and other composers of classical modernity and also appreciated the approach of Thelonious Monk's early work ( he wrote the first article about this, which was published ). Unlike Monk, however, he focused on his 170 compositions ( partly lost ) not on structures but on idiosyncratic melodic motives and rhythmic ideas. His compositions continue to expect common form of schemes such as the 32 -bar AABA form of, but are alienated similar to Gershwin song mine by the fact that distinguish the different A- components. In addition, the individual parts at Nichols no longer consist of regular eight-bar periods. At a part of the listener affects an improvisation over such an asymmetric form scheme, as would parts omitted or added.

Nichols also wrote poems and articles and was also active as a painter.


  • Herbie Nichols: The Unpublished Works. 27 Jazz Masterpieces (edited by Roswell Rudd ) and Gerard Sarzin Publishing 2000; ISBN 978-1-930080-00-3

Disco Graphical Notes

  • The Art of Herbie Nichols ( with Art Blakey, Max Roach, Al McKibbon, Teddy Kotick, 1955 /6), Blue Note 1992.
  • The Blue Note sessions of 1955-1956, published in edition with supplementary material in 1988 Mosaic Records as The Complete Recordings of Herbie Nichols ( The Prophetic Herbie Nichols, Volume contains 1.2 ( BLP 5068, 5069 ), The Herbie Nichols Trio ( BLP 1519 ) )
  • Herbie Nichols: Love, Gloom, Cash, Love ( with Dannie Richmond, George Duvivier, 1957, Bethlehem ), also known as The Bethlehem Sessions at Affinity


  • The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Herbie Nichols - (1955 /56) - ( Mosaic - 1987 ) - 5 LPs with Al McKibbon, Art Blakey, Teddy Kotick, Max Roach