World of Jazz – 19th May 2011 – The Herbie Nichols Project

The Herbie Nichols Project was created through the Jazz Composers Collective in 1994.

Co-led by Frank Kimbrough and Ben Allison, the most recently  recorded line-up of the group includes Ron Horton on trumpet, Ted Nash and Michael Blake on saxophones, Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, and Matt Wilson on drums, although roughly twenty players have played as part of the project over it’s life.

The basis of the Herbie Nichols Project is to introduce the long-neglected music of this great American composer to musicians, audiences and record collectors and to arrange, perform and record his work with horns – something Nichols was not able to do in his lifetime.  

 The Herbie Nichols Project has recorded three CDs – Love Is Proximity and Dr. Cyclops’ Dream for Soul Note; their most recent is Strange City on Palmetto.  I am featuring one track from each album as part of the show. 

 “One can create one’s own system of composing jazz. Sometimes I find it hard to distinguish where my technique ends and inspiration begins. . . Rhythms and patterns seem to be endless and I find them in boxing, architecture, literature, vaudeville, the dancing art of Primus, Hale and Dunham. All the world’s a stage for the jazz pundit.”  Herbie Nichols, Metronome Magazine,1956

Frank  Kimbrough: “I first heard Herbie Nichols’ music in January, 1985 on one of WKCR FM’s ‘Birthday Broadcasts,’  . They played three hours of his music and I taped the program. I was so struck by it I started transcribing his music the next day. I played many of the tunes at a solo piano gig on Bleecker Street, then after a while began to take the tunes to sessions with my friends. As these sessions gradually evolved into what was to become the Jazz Composers Collective, we decided it would make a great project, even though our main focus has always been our own music. We premiered the Herbie Nichols Project in 1994. The next year I got an NEA grant to produce two more concerts, and from there it took on a life of its own.”

1 The Herbie Nichols Project  – Dance Line – Love is Proximity (1997 Soul Note)

2 Jackie McLean – House is Not A Home – Dynasty – If you going to do Bacharach this is the way to do it. One of the great Jackie McLean albums. After nearly a decade away from recording, he teamed up with his son, René (who triples on tenor, soprano, and flute), pianist Hotep Idris Galeta, bassist Nat Reeves, and drummer Carl Allen for a great live set. (1988 Triloka)

3 George Adams/Don Pullen – Kahji – Melodic Excursions – The George Adams-Don Pullen group pared to the bone — just the two of them.  A great example of how two musicians who know each other well can deliver exciting improvisation. (1982 Timeless)

4 The Herbie Nichols Project – The Bebop Waltz – Dr Cyclops Dream – the date includes a wealth of Nichols’ imaginative yet infrequently heard songs, plus a number of compositions recorded for the first time (thanks to trumpeter and flügelhornist Ron Horton’s discovery of several scores in the Library of Congress).  (1999 Soul Note)

5 Dewey Redman – Joie De Vivre – Ear of the Behearer – this album contains all of Dewey’s Impulse work and is a little freer than what we are used to from him. (1973 Impulse)

6 Thomas Strønen- In Motion – Parish – not Psalm as I called it during the show….typical ECM recording with Bobo Stenson, Fredrick Ljungkvist and Mats Ebertson. (2006 ECM)

7 Tom Harrell – Autumn Picture – Visions – from a sort of compilation album of sessions when Harrell left the lable – features Joe Lovano on Soprano. (1991 Contemporary)

8 The Herbie Nichols Project – Enrapture – Strange City –  Trumpeter Ron Horton is featured in a quartet setting on “Enrapture”. (2001 Palmetto)

9 Clifford Jordan – He’s A Hero – The Adventurer- Tenor-saxophonist Clifford Jordan teams up with  Tommy Flanagan, Bill Lee, and Grady Tate for this excellent modern hard bop set. (1980 Muse)

10 Joe Lovano – I Can’t Get Started – Quartets – Live at the Village Vanguard – Named Jazz Album of the Year by readers of Downbeat Magazine, this double CD features tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano during two appearances at the Village Vanguard New York. Other than the leader, the pair of quartets are completely different and they bring out two sides of Lovano. The earlier session featured on the show has  the leader in a   piano-less quartet,   with  Tom Harrell – in a sort of reverse from the track played earlier.

To listen to the show click on the link below: