Jazz Composers Collective: Clip #6
FRANK J. OTERI: This leads directly into what you guys do with the music of Herbie Nichols, a pianist who made these great trio sides for Blue Note in the ’50’s and then a record for Bethlehem and I think there are some sides for Savoy and that’s it. And he never got to record with a mixed quintet, which was his dream. And you guys have discovered all this stuff that never even made it into the trio sessions. And have become Herbie Nichols’ fantasy band, playing Herbie Nichols’ music and bringing it to a wider audience potentially. You’re going to have a third CD on the market. Total the times on those 3 CDs and you guys will have recorded more than Herbie ever did. So what does that mean? Here you have an instance of jazz composer who’s not part of the group, and you’re now interpreting him, and you are preserving his legacy.
BEN ALLISON: Well, it’s a little bit of a departure for the Collective in terms of our overall mission, which is, after all, to present new music by contemporary composers…
FRANK KIMBROUGH: Well, it is new music.
BEN ALLISON: …and premiere music. I think at the beginning we kind of felt that this was new music in the sense that it was so largely undiscovered and I certainly didn’t know anything about Herbie Nichols until Frank brought him to my attention. Frank had been dealing with it for a while, and my experience with Herbie Nichols were the sides you mentioned on Savoy, which isn’t really his record at all anyways, and it’s not that great, it’s cool but it turns out to be the bass player on the date, Chocolate Williams and his Chocolateers. And Herbie was a Chocolateer. I guess Herbie’s name carries a little… it’s a little cooler than the Chocolateers, so he gets credit, but it wasn’t his record. So that was my only experience with it until Frank brought in some charts.
FRANK KIMBROUGH: I started transcribing his tunes in 1985. And at the time I had a solo piano gig at a little place in the village. And I would transcribe the tunes, and then work them out on this gig. When I met Ben, we were playing all kinds of stuff, Annette Peacock tunes, Carla Bley tunes, Herbie or Monk, or just improvising or whatever. And then more people got involved. So, one of the most important things about the band that maybe should be recognized is that this was never set up or meant to be a tribute band. The only reason we were playing the music is because we loved it. That’s where the whole thing came from. It wasn’t like we sat down one day and said, hey, I’ve got this great idea. There was never anything like that. Nothing remotely happened like that.
BEN ALLISON: Nor did we try to carry on his legacy.
FRANK KIMBROUGH: No.
BEN ALLISON: Because, all you’ve got to do is go listen to the records and there it is. That’s the heaviest thing.
FRANK KIMBROUGH: It’s there. There’s precious little written about him while he was alive, and that’s a shame. You know, the Blue Note box is there. The Bethlehem record is there. That’s his legacy, really. And the fact that we play his music? We love his music. That’s why we play it. And really, that’s the only reason why.