Love, Gloom, Cash, Love (Bethlehem, 1957)
Herbie Nichols has been called one of jazz’s “most tragically overlooked geniuses” and the pianist’s final 1957 masterpiece, Love, Gloom, Cash, Love, bears witness to that description. Some think of him as a disciple of Thelonius Monk, but that’s not giving him nearly enough credit. Highly imaginative and unpredictable, Nichols was a contemporary of Monk; he was also equally innovative, curious and playful.
For those who only know his earlier Blue Note recordings, or the iconic song he composed — Lady Sings the Blues — for Billie Holiday, the Bethlehem date is a revelation. The soothing sophistication of his piano work is rounded out by Charles Mingus’ drummer Dannie Richmond and bassist George Duvivier to create the challenging, provocative and magical wonderland that is Nichols’ vision of jazz. The melodies are complex; the rhythms subdued.
Denzil Best’s 45 Degree Angle is a finger-snapping, mischievous smoker while All the Way is breathtakingly restrained and romantic. The spirited warmth of Every Cloud is a playful exchange between Nichols’ heavy piano chords and Richmond’s shifting rhythms. Beyond Recall is a call-and-response jazz march, perhaps reminiscent of his days serving in World War II. Nichols’ whimsical imagination comes to the fore in the title track, Love, Gloom, Cash, Love, a sweet, gratifying waltz.
Sadly, just as Nichols began to develop a following, he was stricken with leukemia and died too young in 1963. Humble and hard-working, he wasn’t alive long enough to reap the benefits of his genius and his works went largely forgotten. It’s time to pull this album from the vaults and rediscover the warmth, imagination and spirit of his long overlooked brilliance.
– Jessica Rand, Host of Takin’ Off, Mon-Thurs, 3-6pm.