The Herbie Nichols Project

The Herbie Nichols Project was introduced by the Jazz Composers Collective in 1994. Co-led by Frank Kimbrough and Ben Allison, the latest recorded incarnation of the group includes Ron Horton on trumpet, Ted Nash and Michael Blake on saxophones, Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, and Matt Wilson on drums (though roughly twenty players have participated in it at one time or another). The basis of the Herbie Nichols Project is twofold – to introduce the long-neglected music of this great American composer to musicians, audiences and record collectors; and to arrange, perform and record his work with horns – something he never was able to do in his lifetime. Other musicians have recorded Nichols' music before – most notably Roswell Rudd and Steve Lacy – but this outgrowth of the Jazz Composers Collective has taken it one step further by creating a repertory band committed to annual performances, multiple recordings and unearthing never-recorded Herbie Nichols gems from the Library of Congress. Co-leaders Kimbrough and Allison had little idea when they began the project what a life it would take on. Prolific media accolades poured in from the release of the first record and helped bring much-deserved attention to other Collective efforts as journalists overwhelmingly embraced the musical personalities behind the Project in addition to the Herbie Nichols repertory aspect. Thus far, the Herbie Nichols Project has recorded three CDs - Love Is Proximity and Dr. Cyclops' Dream for Soul Note; their most recent is Strange City on Palmetto. They have toured in the US, Canada, the UK, France, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and Portugal.

"One can create one's own system of composing jazz. Sometimes I find it hard to distinguish where my technique ends and inspiration begins. . . Rhythms and patterns seem to be endless and I find them in boxing, architecture, literature, vaudeville, the dancing art of Primus, Hale and Dunham. All the world's a stage for the jazz pundit."
Herbie Nichols, Metronome Magazine,1956

Says Kimbrough: "I first heard Herbie Nichols' music in January, 1985 on one of WKCR FM's ‘Birthday Broadcasts,' recalls Kimbrough. "They played three hours of his music and I taped the program. I was so struck by it I started transcribing his music the next day. I played many of the tunes at a solo piano gig on Bleecker Street, then after a while began to take the tunes to sessions with my friends. As these sessions gradually evolved into what was to become the Jazz Composers Collective, we decided it would make a great project, even though our main focus has always been our own music. We premiered the Herbie Nichols Project in 1994. The next year I got an NEA grant to produce two more concerts, and from there it took on a life of its own."

Latest Release

The Herbie Nichols Project: Strange City (Palmetto PM2077)

1. Moments Magical (first recording)
2. Enrapture (first recording)
3. Delights (first recording)
4. Blue Shout (first recording)
5. Strange City
6. Karna Kangi
7. The Happenings
8. A Change of Season
9. Some Wandering Bushmen
10. Shuffle Montgomery

Top 10 Lists 2001
Duck Baker, Jazz Times
Dan Morgenstern, Institute of Jazz Studies, Rutgers University
Derk Richardson, San Francisco Bay Guardian
Jay Trachtenberg, Austin Chronicle

Votes for album of the year – Downbeat Critics Poll
Votes for acoustic Jazz group of the year – Downbeat Critics Poll
***** – All About Jazz Italy
#1 CMJ Jazz Chart

"A repertory band that is more interested in creative engagement with great music than historic re-creation. The result is one of the best tribute albums of the year."
Ed Hazell, Jazziz
"Arguably, this set contains some of the ensemble's best moments on record to date (their live shows are also something to behold). Tight ensemble passages and spirited solos - the sum is truly greater than its parts. A fitting tribute to an artist whose contribution to jazz is greater than the sum of his fame." A
Chris Hovan, Cleveland Free Press
**** "Excellent……songs are assembled and unpacked in a running, and deeply imaginative, dialogue."
Greg Buium, Downbeat
"Much-needed archeology. It succeeds magnificently. Haunting brass band charts, witty arrangements, very strong themes, and gorgeous soloing."
Simon Adams, Jazz Journal International

The Herbie Nichols Project - Dr. Cyclops' Dream (SN 121333-2)
Jazz CD of the Year (2000) - Cuadernos do Jazz (Spain)
Top 5 Jazz recordings of 1999 - Duck Baker, Jazz Times
Editor's Top 10 Jazz recordings of 1999 - CD
Top 10 Jazz Albums of 1999 - Gene Seymour, NY Newsday
Top 15 Jazz Albums of 1999 - KCSN Radio, Los Angeles
Top 10 Jazz Albums of 1999 - Rene Vasquez, Jazz Weekly
Nominated for Jazz Tribute album of the year 2000- Jazz Journalists Association

The Herbie Nichols Project - Love Is Proximity (SN 121313-2)
Top 5 Jazz Recordings of 1997 - Sid Gribetz, Jazz Times
Top 10 Jazz Recordings of 1997 - David Prince - Austin Chronicle

selected performances

Kaplan Penthouse, Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), NYC
New School University Jazz Performance Space, NYC*
Caramoor Jazz Festival, Katonah, NY
Birdland, NYC
Jazz Standard, NYC*
The Knitting Factory, NYC
University of Minnesota*
Cityfolk Concert Series, Dayton, OH
San Francisco Jazz Festival
Earshot Jazz Festival, Seattle, WA
The Arts Center, Carrboro, NC*
Appalachian State University, NC*
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill*
Jazz In Arles Festival, France
The BIM Huise, Amsterdam
Groningen Jazz Marathon, Holland
Northsea Jazz Festival, Holland
De Werf, Brugge, Belgium
Copenhagen Jazz House, Denmark
Umea Jazz Festival, Sweden
Oxford University Festival of Contemporary Music, England*
Turner Sims Concert Hall, University of Southampton, England
Brecon Jazz Festival, Wales
Jazz in August Festival, Lisbon, Portugal
Loule International Jazz Festival, Portugal

*denotes student workshop in addition to concert

live radio broadcasts
WKCR - FM, NYC (Afternoon Music Show)
WNYC - FM, NYC (Around New York)
WBGO - FM, Newark NJ (Jazz From The Archives)
Netherlands Radio (Live at the BIM Huise)
Netherlands Radio (Live at the Groningen Jazz Marathon)
Radio Sweden (Live at the Umea Jazz Festival)
Radio Belgium (Live at De Werf)

grants and awards
Jazz Performance Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
Aaron Copland Foundation
Mary Flagler Cary Trust
Mid - Atlantic Arts Foundation

Liner notes: The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Herbie Nichols (w/ Ben Allison)
Biography of Herbie Nichols for the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
Article on the Herbie Nichols Project for O Papel do Jazz (Portugal)
Article on Herbie Nichols for