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Since 1992, the Herbie Nichols Project has been dedicated to performing the music of a gentleman who in his lifetime was sadly neglected but who left behind a body of work just as idiosyncratic and distinctive as that of Thelonious Monk. Following their two previous releases, Dr. Cyclop’s Dream and Love Is Proximity, the group now makes their debut on the Palmetto label with Strange City, a program made up almost exclusively by tunes that Nichols never recorded himself. Arguably, this set contains some of the ensemble’s finest moments on record to date.
There’s much to discover here and the variegated program moves from the almost classical sounding “Moments Magical” that opens the disc to the quintessential “Shuffle Montgomery” that acts as a closer. Along the way there are ample opportunities not only to luxuriate in the compositional genius of Nichols, but also to admire the strong ensemble passages and the individual voices that make up the ensemble. Trumpeter Ron Horton is darkly lyrical on the title track, drummer Matt Wilson is intensely musical during his solo spot on “Blue Shout,” and pianist Frank Kimbrough taps the Nichols genius in a splendid trio take on “Karna Kangi.” These are just three highlights among a great program that not only interprets and extends the Nichols legacy but also speaks highly in regards to each group member’s individual muse.
Track Listing: Moments Magical, Enrapture, Delights, Blue Shout, Strange City, Karna Kangi, The Happenings, Change of Season, Some Wandering Bushmen, Shuffle Montgomery
Personnel: Frank Kimbrough (piano), Ben Allison (bass), Ron Horton (trumpet & flugelhorn), Ted Nash (tenor saxophone), Michael Blake (soprano saxophone), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Matt Wilson (drums)