Nichols, Herbie (actually, Herbert Horatio)

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Nichols, Herbie (actually, Herbert Horatio)

Nichols, Herbie (actually, Herbert Horatio), jazz pianist, composer; b. N.Y. Jan. 3, 1919; d. N.Y., April 12, 1963. Nichols is best known for his compositions, which were respected and admired by many musicians. He began playing piano at eight, studying with Charles Beck for seven years. He performed with the Royal Baron Orch. (1937) and Floyd Williams (1938). He served in the U.S. Infantry from September 1941 until August 1943. After the war, he worked with various swing and R&B bands, including a tour with Illinois Jacquet (c. 1947) then worked on and off with John Kirby during 1948 and 1949. During the 1950s, he worked with Snub Mosley, Edgar Sampson, Milton Larkin, Arnett Cobb, Wilbur de Paris, and others. His 1955 album, Third World, announced a composer of distinction and talent. During the early 1960s, he played various club residencies in N.Y. In 1962, he played with Archie Shepp, and toured Scandinavia. He died of leukemia. His best-known works include “Lady Sings the Blues,” written for Billie Holiday, and “Mary’s Waltz,” a favorite of pianist Mary Lou Williams (originally known as “The Bebop Waltz”). During the 1990s his music was championed by John Zorn, Ted Nash, and other avant-garde composer/performers; in 1994, N.Y/s Jazz Composer’s Collective staged a concert of his works.


M & N (1952); Third World (1955); Prophetic H.N., Vol.I (1955); Herbie Nichols Trio (1955); Art of H.N. (1955); Thelonious Monk and H.N. (1956); Love, Gloom, Cash, Love (1957); Bethlehem Session (1957).

—Nicolas Slomnisky/Laura Kaun/Dennis McIntire

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Nichols, Herbie (actually, Herbert Horatio)

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