Herbie Nichols: The Gig
Herbie Nichols (piano)
The Complete Blue Note Recordings (Blue Note 59352)
Composed by Herbie Nichols.
Recorded: New York City, August 1, 1955
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Two of Herbie Nichols' most evocative recorded tracks (each cut on the same day), are "House Party Starting" and "The Gig," both piano trio equivalents of the kind of aural picture Duke Ellington painted with his orchestral "Harlem Air Shaft." The title, "The Gig," in itself reminds one of Nichols' comment to trombonist Roswell Rudd not long before the frustrated pianist died of leukemia at just 44 years of age. "I can't get work because I don't act weird, don't clown around enough," he told Rudd. "You have to be some kind of a freak to get a gig nowadays." Unless you were content to play with R & B and Dixieland groups, which Nichols wasn't.
"The Gig" contains a theme that seems to alternately stalk, stomp, or prance, depending on Nichols' nuanced tonal inflections and alterations in rhythm. In his solo, Nichols takes the theme's repeating motif through fascinating permutations, utilizing jubilant runs, jabbing phrases, and hard-edged left hand accents. It's almost impossible to listen to "The Gig" without nodding your head or tapping your feet—or maybe both—especially as Roach maintains an insistent tempo in addition to his dramatically affirmative fills. Nichols must have written this tune after one of his better gigs.
Reviewer: Scott Albin