Mengelberg, Lacy, Lewis, Gorter, Bennink: Spinning Song
Change of Season (Soul Note SN 1104)
Composed by Herbie Nichols.
Recorded: Milano, July 2 or 3, 1984
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Herbie Nichols is one of the very few pre-Ornette, bop-derived composers whose tunes have attracted interpreters from the free jazz side of the tracks. This cooperative ensemble consists of avant-inclined musicians who are at-ease with more traditional styles; it's not surprising that they'd be attracted to Nichols' tunes, which are a great deal more harmonically sophisticated than the average '50s-era blowing vehicle. This tune's harmony hints at Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," but that's about the only familiar thing about it. The medium-tempo tune is pure Nichols in the way it moves from harmonic complexity to simplicity. The casual performance evokes a nightclub feel. A loose camaraderie prevails. Lacy brings the same epigrammatic approach he uses on Monk to the Nichols canon. Mengelberg is terse, witty, and acrid. Lewis is a bit blowsier, but no less incisive. Bassist Arjen Gorter and drummer Han Bennink contrive a conventional, very relaxed and swinging modern jazz foundation. Some tributes seem paralyzed by the example set by the honoree. Not this. These guys treat Nichols' composition not with reverence, but with joyful appreciation and boundless creativity.
Reviewer: Chris Kelsey