'Orse At Safari – Herbie Nichols
A medium-up swinger with stop-and-start rhythms in a slightly Monkish vein. Lead sheets and a 2-stave Piano Melody Transcription are available, as well as a transcription of Herbie's solo..
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- Recording: Herbie Nichols - Complete Blue Note Recordings of Herbie Nichols
- Recorded on: August 7, 1955
- Label: Mosaic (MR5-118)
- Concert Key: C
- Vocal Range: , to
- Style: Swing (medium up)
- Piano - Herbie Nichols
- Bass - Al McKibbon
- Drums - Max Roach
In several places the melody has a winding interval structure, such as the seventh measure of the bridge which alternates ascending half steps with descending whole steps. A similar phrase appears in the fourth measure of the A section, while the last phrase on the 8th measure of the C section mostly alternates ascending thirds and descending whole steps. Our lead sheet includes one short phrase that Herbie plays but isn't in Herbie's original manuscript; it's on the third and fourth beats of the seventh measure in the first A section. This passage is a variation of that in the same place in the second A section, which does appear in the manuscript.
The intro is only tangentially related to the head; it is an intervallic expansion of the winding structures that appear in a few places in the head, here alternating descending fourths and ascending thirds. These fourths are also an inversion of the ascending fourths that begin the head. There are no chords here, but a bass line also based on fourths; in the coda Herbie plays voicings of stacked fourths. Four measures long, the intro is followed by a four-measure drum break; when it reappears as a coda, it is both preceded and followed by four measures of drums. Max Roach actually plays the same break after the intro and after the coda, though the one preceding the coda is different. On the recording, the bass does not walk in the A and C sections of the head, instead playing the roots in a rhythm that lines up with the melody; this is notated in the lead sheet.
A Piano Melody Transcription is available for the in and out heads; , as well as a transcription of Herbie's solo; click on the Piano Corner and Solos tabs for more details.
The now- obscure title refers to Floyd "Horsecollar" Williams, a saxophonist whom Herbie played with at a club called Safari. Horsecollar is probably best known for his playing with trumpeter/vocalist Hot Lips Page. Only one take of 'Orse At Safari was recorded at this 1955 session. Jurg Bucher and Marty Krystall, both tenor saxophonists, coincidentally recorded their own versions of this song in 1999—both on albums entirely consisting of Herbie Nichols songs.
Don Sickler: As you'll hear, Herbie has great energetic solo chops with nuances that make his personal musical language unique. Notating his energy is an impossible task. But not trying to indicate some of his personal nuances makes absolutely no sense to me. He's mostly not just running swing 8th notes; when he exaggerates the swing feel, we've indicated them as dotted 8ths to 16ths. We're also using two different sizes of accents; we could use three or four different sizes to try to define his energy, but that would make it too complicated for this first look at one of his solos. For this transcription we've shown some ghosted notes (x) and some general dynamics, but we've not made an attempt to document his world of dynamics. Herbie definitely has his own style, and how his energy defines this solo is worth a careful listen.
Thanks to Ethan Iverson's Do The Math blog you can get a fascinating look at these two giants together in an interview and article Herbie did with Monk back in 1946, when Monk was still a sideman in Coleman Hawkins' group. Monk and Nichols alongside Elmo Hope and a few others were great influences on each other.
January 3, 1919 – April 12, 1963
Two years ago (January 3, 2019) we were at the Van Gelder Recording Studio celebrating Herbie's 100th birthday with his family and pianists Frank Kimbrough and Glenn Zaleski. Both Frank and Glenn each recorded a previously unrecorded Herbie Nichols composition, on the same piano Herbie played for his Blue Note sessions. These were the initial recordings that started my new project, the Herbie Nichols Solo Piano Summit. Read more...