Roswell Rudd

The Unheard Herbie Nichols, Vol. 1

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Although he was a major composer who wrote over 200 pieces, pianist Herbie Nichols never had an opportunity to document most of his work, orchestrate any of his pieces for a group larger than a trio, or even to work regularly playing his music. When he passed away in 1963 at the age of 44, he was unknown except to a very small group of fans and musicians, one of whom was trombonist Roswell Rudd. On this 1996 set, Rudd debuts seven Nichols compositions that were never previously recorded. The trombonist performs in an unusual trio with guitarist Greg Millar and drummer John Bacon, Jr. (who doubles on vibes). Five of the pieces (which range in length from the nearly 16½-minute "Jamaica" to "Valse Macabre," which clocks in at 1:37) feature the entire group, and although the structures are quite tricky, the music (even when it is in waltz time) generally swings in its own fashion. The final two numbers ("One Twilight" and "Passing Thought") are taken as unaccompanied trombone solos and find Rudd putting plenty of feeling into his interpretations of his fallen friend's music. Overall, this is an intriguing set of "new" music.

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