|Birth name||Herbert Horatio Nichols|
|Born||January 3, 1919|
San Juan Hill, Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Died||April 12, 1963 (aged 44)|
New York, U.S.
|Labels||Blue Note, Bethlehem|
Herbert Horatio Nichols (January 3, 1919 – April 12, 1963) was an American jazz pianist and composer who wrote the jazz standard "Lady Sings the Blues". Obscure during his lifetime, he is now highly regarded by many musicians and critics.
He was born in San Juan Hill, Manhattan, New York, United States, to parents from St. Kitts and Trinidad, and grew up in Harlem.: 156, 174 During much of his career, he took work as a Dixieland musician while also pursuing the more adventurous kind of jazz he preferred.: 155–56 He is best known today for program music that combines bop, Dixieland, and music from the Caribbean with harmonies from Erik Satie and Béla Bartók.
His first known work as a musician was with the Royal Barons in 1937, but he did not find performing at Minton's Playhouse a few years later a very happy experience, as the competitive environment did not suit him. However, he did become friends with pianist Thelonious Monk.
Nichols was drafted into the Army in 1941. After the war, he worked in various settings, beginning to achieve some recognition when Mary Lou Williams recorded some of his songs in 1952.: 165 From about 1947, he persisted in trying to persuade Alfred Lion at Blue Note Records to sign him up.: 168 He finally recorded some of his compositions for Blue Note in 1955 and 1956, some of which were not issued until the 1980s. His tune "Serenade" had lyrics added, and as "Lady Sings the Blues" became identified with Billie Holiday. In 1957, he recorded his last album as leader for Bethlehem Records.
One of the four essays in A.B. Spellman's Four Lives in the Bebop Business (also known as Four Jazz Lives, 1966) is about Nichols. A biography, Herbie Nichols: A Jazzist's Life, written by Mark Miller, was published in 2009.
Nichols's music was energetically promoted by Roswell Rudd, who worked with Nichols in the early 1960s. Rudd released three albums featuring Nichols's compositions (Regeneration, issued in 1983 by Soul Note, and The Unheard Herbie Nichols (1997), issued by CIMP in two volumes), as well as a book The Unpublished Works (2000).
A New York group, the Herbie Nichols Project (part of the Jazz Composers Collective) has recorded three albums largely dedicated to unrecorded Nichols' compositions, many of which Nichols had deposited in the Library of Congress.
|Year recorded||Year released||Title||Label||Notes|
|1955||1955||The Prophetic Herbie Nichols Vol. 1||Blue Note||Trio, with Al McKibbon (bass), Art Blakey (drums)|
|1955||1955||The Prophetic Herbie Nichols Vol. 2||Blue Note||Trio, with Al McKibbon (bass), Art Blakey (drums)|
|1955–56||1956||Herbie Nichols Trio||Blue Note||Trio, with Al McKibbon and Teddy Kotick (bass; separately), Max Roach (drums)|
|1957||1958||Love, Gloom, Cash, Love||Bethlehem||Most tracks trio, with George Duvivier (bass), Dannie Richmond (drums); one track solo piano|
- 1952: Herbie Nichols Quartet (Savoy; first LP issue: Various Artists I Just Love Jazz Piano - Down And Out (1957), session sometimes reissued with the Gigi Gryce album Nica's Tempo)
- The Complete Blue Note Recordings (Blue Note; reissued by Mosaic)
- 1953: Rex Stewart and his Dixielanders Dixieland Free-For-All (Jazztone, 1956)
- 1958: Vic Dickenson & Joe Thomas, Mainstream (Atlantic)
- Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1826. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
- Johnson, David Brent; Miller, Mark (5 April 2010). "Night Lights: Herbie Nichols' Third World". Indiana Public Media. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
- Spellman, A.B. (1985). Four Lives in the Bebop Business. New York: Limelight Editions. ISBN 0879100427.
- Wilson, John S. (November 20, 1966). "Jazzmen's Quartet". The New York Times. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
- Miller, Mark (2009). Herbie Nichols: A Jazzist's Life. Toronto: Mercury Press Publishers. ISBN 978-1-551-28146-9.
- Kelsey, Chris. "Roswell Rudd". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- Layne, Joslyn. "Misha Mengelberg". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- Corroto, Mark (1 November 2001). "Strange City: The Herbie Nichols Project". All About Jazz. Archived from the original on 7 September 2008. Retrieved 29 November 2008.
- "Herbie Nichols Discography". jazzdisco. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
- "Blue Note Records Catalog: 5000 series". jazzdisco. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
- "Blue Note Records Catalog: 1500 series". jazzdisco. Retrieved October 21, 2022.
- "Bethlehem Records Catalog: Deluxe series". jazzdisco. Retrieved October 21, 2022.