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JazzTimes 10: Essential Herbie Nichols Tracks

Celebrating the centennial of a still-underappreciated pianist and composer

  1. Herbie Nichols: “Love, Gloom, Cash, Love” (Love, Gloom, Cash, Love, Bethlehem, 1957)

The four-chord motif that recurs throughout the title track of Nichols’ second and final full-length album recites its title as clearly as if there were a singer on hand. A consonant major chord for “love,” a dark dissonant one for “gloom,” a semi-dissonant one for “cash,” and a return to consonance for the final “love.” Between the recurrences are two strains that let the pianist alternate light and dark, playing with the possibilities of all four harmonic planes. (His trio partners, bassist George Duvivier and drummer Dannie Richmond, stay on the waltzing beat, leaving the soloing to the piano.) “Love, Gloom, Cash, Love” is one of Nichols’ finest compositions and performances, as worthy as “Lady Sings the Blues” of entering the standard repertoire.

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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.