Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

JazzTimes 10: Essential Herbie Nichols Tracks

Celebrating the centennial of a still-underappreciated pianist and composer

  1. Herbie Nichols Trio: “Cro-Magnon Nights” (The Prophetic Herbie Nichols, Vol. 1, Blue Note, 1955)

“I begged Al Lion 10 years for a record, but I was 36 before I ever recorded,” Nichols later remembered of his 1955 Blue Note debut with bassist Al McKibbon and drummer Art Blakey. “He said I was the most persistent man he ever met.” The title of “Cro-Magnon Nights” announces that it won’t be a typically lush piano romance. Once again, a through-line can be drawn from this record to the Blue Note output of Monk (“Thelonious”) or Powell (“Un Poco Loco”). But Nichols could never be mistaken for either, with a gait more fluid than the former but less speedy than the latter. “Cro-Magnon” takes a pointillistic approach to harmony and develops with a sense of drama and intensity, as if it were all to be taken as a word of warning.

Check the price on Amazon!

Originally Published

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.