One of the finest clarinetists to emerge from New Orleans and be active in the 1920s, Albert Nicholas (1900-73) worked with King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and Luis Russell among others, spending time in the 1930s with the Louis Armstrong Orchestra. He never quite achieved the fame and influence of Johnny Dodds or Sidney Bechet but he was often on their level and he had his own distinctive sound along with impressive technique.
Nicholas moved permanently to Paris in 1953, a few years after Bechet, spending his final two decades working as often as he wanted. His absence from the U.S. resulted in him being underrated by many American jazz fans but he was near the top of his field during this time.
Albert Nicholas In Europe consists of three previously unreleased live performances, two from his final year. Nicholas sounds enthusiastic, fluent, and creative during a seven song set from May 28, 1972 with members of the New Iberia Stompers in England. He jams “China Boy” and “Old Fashioned Love” with the septet, is the only horn on four features (including “Rose Room”), and shares the spotlight with clarinetist Dick Cook during “Lady Be Good.” A slightly earlier session (Feb. 6, 1972) from Switzerland has Nicholas playing three standards (including “Royal Garden Blues”) with a fine quintet, and there are also four numbers from June 18, 1957 with an excellent group comprised of Polish pianist Andrzej Kurylewicz and three Germans, performed in Poland. Nicholas’ style and sound were virtually unchanged during the 15 year period covered by the CD.
There is not an excess of Albert Nicholas recordings currently available so the release of this CD is particularly welcome. Since the performances on the disc are consistently inspired and feature the clarinetist in peak form, this set is highly recommended.
Albert Nicholas In Europe
(Upbeat URCD284, 14 selections, TT = 69:27) www.upbeatmailorder.co.uk/catalog