At first, Herbie Nichols wanted to be a Prokofiev. When classical training proved beyond his means as a young pianist in Harlem, he decided instead to become an Ellington.
In truth, he became a Nichols -- by his own description a "jazzist" and by any other name a singular figure on the New York jazz scene of the 1950s. He worked in dixieland bands and Greenwich Village cabarets in order to survive while he composed and all too infrequently recorded music whose originality, modernity and humour -- together with his own probity, intellectual curiosity and restless creativity -- set him apart from his contemporaries.
Largely neglected during his short life but increasingly celebrated in the years since, Nichols is now honoured with this sympathetic and engaging biography.