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"Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols" Leo Records 2012


All About Jazz April 2012

A heralded outsider, Russian pianist Simon Nabatov imparts a personal spin on a selection of legendary jazz pianist Herbie Nichols' discography. Here, Nabatov performs solo, exuding his habitual creative sparks during these interrogations and investigations of Nichols' often-overlooked body of work. Featuring integrations of traditional jazz applications with austere classicism, bop, world-beat grooves and more, the pianist duly underscores Nichols' knotty rhythmic persuasions.
Throughout, Nabatov tears down these compositions and re-engineers the various melodies and structures. With flourishing cadenzas, trickling harmonics and a host of expressive formations, the artist sustains a high-level of interest. On "The Spinning Song," he conveys great sensitivity yet flexes some muscle during various passages.
Complete with rollicking progressions, spinning notes and haunting contrasts, the pianist seamlessly melds a fire and brimstone outline into bluesy statements and energized chord clusters. Nabatov explores an abundance of rhythmic variations and tinkers with the free-zone in spots, but closes the piece on a whimper, as if to suggest the gas tank is on empty. Indeed, he exhausts a cavalcade of ideologies, running on overdrive to offset the temperate moments with compassion and poise.

Glenn Astarita


The Whole Note June 2012

...A disparate but even more demanding approach to solo playing is displayed brilliantly on Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols Leo Records CD LR 632. Unaccompanied and only using the instrument’s excepted range and properties, Simon Nabatov creates original takes on eight compositions by under-appreciated American pianist/composer Herbie Nichols (1919-1963). Although the scholarly, sporadically recorded Nichols was Bronx born of Trinidadian parents and never lived anywhere but New York, Nabatov’s position as an outsider allows him to bring more than technical skills to a rethink of Nichols’ tunes. Russian-born and educated, Nabatov lived in New York for a decade and now resides in Köln. Closer to the European tradition than the composer, who admired Prokofiev, Nabatov’s approach often slows down the originals, introducing his own harmonic language to the late composer’s running chords and subtle swing. Hear this on a stately elaboration of “The Third World”. Persuasively elaborating Nichols polyphony with hard syncopation and popping stops, the pianist’s take is both chromatic and creative. Similarly his jocular version of “Terrpsichore” contains enough showy glissandi to advance the juddering melody in different tempos, while the sprinkling of staccato pumps overlaid with harsh passing chords creates a recurring syncopation that builds excitement like the repeated coda on Count Basie’s “April in Paris”. The most profound example of the ingenuity implicit in Nichols writing and Nabatov’s playing occurs with “Blue Chopsticks”. Pushing the composer’s kinetic variant of the amateur pianist’s hoary chestnut even further out, Nabatov never loses the groove. Yet with staccato extrusions and discursive glissandi he’s able to simultaneously reflect the original line, Nichols’ rearrangement and his own variation on the theme.

Ken Waxman


Moment's Notice June 2012

If you love the composing and piano interpretations of the great Herbie Nichols, you eagerly check out each new collection of his music for more insight into his music. Nichols, with his odd changes and long choruses, was a late-blooming heir to theatrical types like Ellington, Waller, and James P. Johnson in projecting feelings, scenes, and personalities. Songs like “Terpsichore,” “The Spinning Song,” and “2300 Skidoo” are themselves dramas – Nichols did not compose bookends to bop blowing sessions. Oddly enough, two guitarists who recorded his Blue Note songs, Eric T. Johnson and Duck Baker, sound most sympathetic, while other tribute CDs reveal far more about (mostly lyric) artists like Roswell Rudd, Steve Lacy, The Herbie Nichols Project, the ICP Orchestra, and their friends than they reveal about dramatic artist Nichols. So it’s especially appealing that pianist Simon Nabatov’s sweeping inventions capture some of the essence of Nichols, fleetingly in the way some passages evolve, and mostly in the grand drama of these solos.
In fact, in a two-minute track Nabatov plays “Twelve Bars,” which Nichols never got to record, mostly just as Nichols himself must have interpreted it: as a stride piece with Nichols-like altered harmonies and decorations. The other seven tracks are much longer and they include Nichols-like passages, a strain or even a chorus long, in the midst of expansive reinterpretations.
Mainly, this CD’s most obvious ancestor is Earl Hines’ late-in-life solos. There’s a similar grandeur of spontaneity, of technique, of changing feelings, and of free, open-end form. Nichols’ themes are marvelous source material. Nabatov envelops these songs in elaborate fantasias; themes emerge subtly, Cecil Taylor-like, in increments out of piano musings. Also, Nabatov often seizes on theme motives, elaborates on them like a man obsessed, then after half a minute abandons them entirely. He begins the longest track, “The Spinning Song,” with spacey tones that gradually become a tonal line; theme phrases enter the discourse via little trailing treble figures, then bass underlines to descending arpeggios. At five minutes he finally plays the entire theme. As fantastic variations continue, bass rumbles enter (at 9:30); the rumbles evolve, the ending is the theme staggered over them. A kaleidoscopic solo with plenty of asides and thematic twists, yet it’s not rambling, but rather a work that grows and makes a complete whole.
Most of the time, Nabatov has separate lines going in the left and right hands, simultaneously. In “Terpsichore” he uses Nichols’ three-note tag as repeated counterpoint to treble clusters, then it evolves as counterpoint to high, fast, wild lines. I love the bumpity-bump of “Sunday Stroll,” with its bass vamp that contrasts, alters, and unifies the solo, and I like his aside in which he worries a little lick, Mal Waldron-like. Nabatov must like Anton Webern and Roscoe Mitchell – hear his quiet, spaced sounds, in chords that end “Terpsichore” and in his rubato tones that slowly gather to suggest a line in “Lady Sings the Blues.” He’s more sensitive to dynamics, to subtle gradations of volume, than most any other jazz pianist – for instance, the theme of “2300 Skidoo” peeps through fanciful lines and p to bombastic ff passages. Nabatov’s imagination is wild; on the face of it he’s discursive. After an impressionistic (Ravelish?) start to “The Third World” he somehow gets on the Ferde Grofe trail. “Blue Chopsticks” starts as a “Chopsticks” jest and bursts into a rambling, virtuoso improvisation that embeds the Nichols theme.
And there’s much more – this CD is full of delights. What buoyant, fanciful music. What a fine sense of the integrity of each solo, in the midst of his expansions and extensions. I’ve heard a few other Simon Nabatov albums, and this is quite his best. It’s also the most creative yet empathetic Nichols tribute yet – it’s a terrific CD.

John Litweiler


Jazz Podium May 2012

„Seit etlichen Jahren setzt sich Simon Nabatov, einer der außergewöhnlichen Pianisten der Welt des Jazz, mit dem Werk von Herbie Nichols auseinander.
Er hat ein Konzertprogramm, das 2009 im Kölner Loft aufgenommen wurde und nun endlich als CD auf den Markt kommt. Es ist ein Werk der Superlative, weshalb bitte den Superlativen im Text nachgesehen wird. Und dahinter stehende Geschichte ist es ebenfalls...“
„... Nabatov kam 1979 von Moskau nach New York, die Musiktradition im Gepäck, für die Nichols geschwärmt hatte. Nabatov kam die Stufen herauf zur klassischen Ausbildung im Juilliard, aber traf auf Nichols in den Second-Hand-Vinyl-Läden in New York, wo er vor allem die Misha Mengelberg Einspielungen fand. Dann ließ ihn Herbie Nichols bis heute nicht mehr los. Und wer könnte besser als er die Tradition des Jazz mit der der Zeitgenössischen Musik in Nichols’ Sinn verbinden?...“
„... Simon Nabatov ist die Einspielung eines ganz besonderen Werk gelungen, die auch seine überwältigenden Qualitäten als Interpret zeigt.“

Hans-Jürgen von Osterhausen


Cult Montreal September 2012

Herbie Nichols spent most of his career playing under other leaders, and his death in 1963 from leukemia at age 44 left him a relatively obscure jazz pianist and composer. His idiosyncratic works have since undergone revival, championed by Steve Lacy, Misha Mengelberg and Roswell Rudd.
First taken with the classical music of the early 20th century, especially Prokofiev, Bartok and Shostakovich, race politics directed Nichols towards jazz. He astutely transformed his background into a singular take on be-bop; Nichols’ tunes stun with twisted rhythms and sophisticated harmonic turns.
Russian pianist Simon Nabatov is the perfect pick to perform a program of Nichols’ pieces. He was classically trained at the Moscow Conservatory and then Julliard, developed a taste for jazz while in New York and turned to free improvisation at his base in Cologne.
Nabatov takes an unusual approach to the eight tunes here, extracting melodic fragments and twirling them out like spin art. Multiple strands suggest there might be more than two hands at work, but the live concert setting precludes overdubs. Despite Nabatov’s claim that he did not rehearse nor think much about strategy before the concert, there is an orchestral feel, at times reminiscent of Liszt’s solo piano transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies. It helped that Nabatov was already intimately familiar with the tunes, having transcribed them decades ago, before they became available as sheet music.
While Billie Holiday added lyrics and made it famous, Nichols wrote “Lady Sings the Blues,” here given an almost vocal-like interpretation, teeming with emotion and not straying too far from the changes.  Conversely, “2300 Skidoo” is highly abstract, the main melody coming to the fore only halfway through the piece. “Blue Chopsticks” starts with every child’s first piano delight, but quickly scatters the minor seconds all over the keyboard. A driving version of “Sunday Stroll” is almost rock ’n’ roll.
This cannot replace Nichols’ original mid-’50s Blue Note sessions, nor is it the best place to discover his oeuvre. But it is among Nabatov’s most exhilarating performances, which stands on its own while bringing deserved attention to a still underappreciated legacy.
The sound is excellent, and the piano panned to give the illusion of sitting on the bench.  Brilliant liner notes from Stuart Broomer round out the package.

 Lawrence Joseph


Radioville July 2012

Pianist Herbie Nichols, whose offbeat style is sometimes compared to that of his contemporary, Thelonious Monk, died in obscurity in 1963. But his remarkable body of work has inspired countless artists ranging from the New York-based Herbie Nichols Project to Dutch greats Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink. With his terrific new solo piano album, Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols, Simon Nabatov keeps that ball rolling.
A product of the Moscow Conservatory who now lives mainly in Cologne, Germany following a stint in New York, Nabatov treats Nichols’ springy, bustling, airborn tunes not as brilliant miniatures, as some artists do. He transforms them into epics that can burst into full-blown drama – he loves those dark keys – or drift into twinkling reveries. Sometimes, he attains a driving momentum that seems like it will never let up. On “Blue Chopsticks,” the gregrarious spirit of Cecil Taylor is present. On “The Spinning Song,” you get glimpses of Duke Ellington. The performances don’t evolve in neat, orderly fashion, but impulsively, full of sudden turns and gear shifts.
Most of the songs will be familiar to Nichols followers, including his best-known piece, “Lady Sings the Blues,” played in the key of delicacy. The album, which was recorded live in Germany in 2007, also includes “Twelve Bars,” which Nichols never recorded. Nabatov shows off his graceful stride style on the song, which ends abruptly, prematurely, just like Nichols’ life, but without the sadness.

Lloyd Sachs


Vortex March 2013

Stuart Broomer’s extensive, thorough and erudite liner notes for this release describe the attractions of the work of pianist/composer Herbie Nichols (1919–63) as ‘original lyricism and a tremendous joy’, courtesy of their ‘bright explosions of splashing chords, sly rhythms, percussive complexity, expansive forms’; anyone who’s encountered the playing of Simon Nabatov will immediately understand just how suitable a project this album – eight Nichols tunes reinterpreted by the Muscovite pianist – is. Like Nichols (who worked in Dixieland bands as well as recording a series of highly original sides for the Blue Note and Bethlehem labels in the 1950s), Nabatov has worked in a wide variety of jazz contexts, from swing bands to freely improvising settings, and his playing is succinctly summed up by Richard Cook thus: ‘[his] solid
knowledge of 20th-century piano music sometimes crowds a technique which could stand with Tatum and Taylor, but he is working his way through some absorbing ideas’. Ideas were meat and drink to Nichols (jazz was his second choice; he initially desired ‘to become a Prokofiev’ and created ‘third stream music’ before the phrase was coined), so Nabatov’s approach brings out all Nichols’s eccentricity, subtlety and sheer intellectual exuberance; he himself confesses to the desire ‘to add a bit more,assuming the pre-existing knowledge of the music, so that I could feel free to dispense with the straight academic approach and let my imagination run wild’. This he does throughout this absorbing (and at at times downright exhilarating) album, whether he’s adding his own playful irreverence to ‘Blue Chopsticks’ or exploring the considerable technical subtleties of ‘The Third World’. There is, too, a neat circle involved here: Nichols was a great fan of Russian music, and Nabatov clearly reciprocates this admiration on all eight tracks of this rousing, richly varied and deeply felt album.

Chris Parker


Independent UK May 2012

A missing link between Thelonious Monk and Cecil Taylor, Harlem pianist Nichols wrote odd, utterly distinctive music that the jazz trad has never assimilated.
Russian virtuoso Nabatov – who came to NYC in 1979 – plays eight of Nichols' tunes, with the avowed aim of surprising himself by not pre-determining where the openings are headed. The result is marvellously jangly, madly syncopated vamping where the bones of the originals show through.

Phil Johnson


Music Zoom Italy 2013

La musica di Herbie Nichols è arrivata tardi alla notorieta, nel frattempo le sue composizioni fanno parte del repertorio di tanti musicisti. Il pianista russo Simon Nabatov ha lasciato da molto tempo la sua patria per studiare jazz a New York eproprio lì casualmente si trovò per le mani un disco della Soul Note in cui un quinteto attorno al pianista Misha Mengelberg eseguiva composizioni di Monk e di Nichols. Nacque così l´interesse per quella musica e dopo la ristampa su un doppio LP delle vecchie incisioni BlueNote di Nichols l´allora giovane pianista russo di dedicò alla trascrizione delle musica. Un modo sicuramente intensivo di interiorizzare le idee di Nichols.
Da anni vive a Colonia, in Germania, e ogni tanto inserisce un brano di Nichols nel suo repertorio, fino a che è venuto fuori questo album in solo, registrato in solo dal vivo al Loft di Colonia. Ovviamente Nabatov dà sfoggio di un grande controllo della tastiera e della sua enorme conoscenza della musica per pianoforte. È in grado di offrire una propria visione molto personale di quelle composizioni, proiettate senza problemi nel mondo del pianismo contemporaneo.
Eppure non c´è niente di cerebrale, anzi si avverte quel senso della sorpresa, la ricerca continua sulla tastiera, le idee che spuntano dal nulla che è tipico del jazz. Il concerto è stato fatto estemporaneamente, senza preparare una scaletta. Semplicemente attingendo dalla propria memoria e dal feeling del momento.
È grande musica, come ci si può aspettare da un musicista che conosce a fondo il pianismo contemporaneo. Si potrebbe scegliere qualche brano fra gli otto eseguiti, ma è praticamente impossibile. Sono tante e tali le soluzioni scelte per dare vita a queste esecuzioni, insieme fanno un´opera compiuta da cui sarebbe ingiusto estrapolare o mettere in evidenza qualcosa.

Vittorio Le Conte


Wer immer (noch) Zweifel hat, dass Jazz eine Kunst ist, der höre sich mal Simon Nabatovs neueste Solo CD an. Da spielt der russisch­stämmige Pianist — einer der größten Kenner und Könner im zeitgenössischen Jazz (und nicht nur unter den Pianisten, auch wenn er über eine ausgesprochen formidable Technik verfügt). Das merkt man schon an der Vielfalt seine Projekte — und der FIngerfertigkeit, mit der er sich den verschiedensten Stilen und Ausdruckweisen anpasst (allein schon die ver­schie­de­nen Unter­neh­mun­gen in wech­seln­den Kon­stel­la­tio­nen mit Nils Wogram, von sei­nen Solo­pro­jek­ten ganz zu schweigen).

Jetzt hat er sich die Musik des eher ver­ges­se­nen Pia­nis­ten Her­bie Nichols vor­ge­nom­men: „Spin­ning Songs” heißt die bei Leo-Records erschie­nene Auf­nahme. Und zeigt wie­der ein­drück­lich, was Nabatov drauf hat: Das ist eine der kunst­volls­ten Piano-Jazz-Platten nicht nur der letz­ten Zeit, son­dern über­haupt. Hier tref­fen zwei Grö­ßen auf­ein­an­der: Ein genia­ler Kom­po­nist und ein schöp­fe­ri­scher Pia­nist. Denn Nabatov führt vor, was in der Musik Her­bie Nichols drin steckt. Und was ihm dazu ein­fällt — die Gren­zen sind sehr, sehr fließend.

Viel­leicht liegt es an der Ähnlich­keit der bei­den Musi­ker, dass das hier so toll funk­tio­niert: Bei­des sind Jazz-Musiker, die sich stark der „klas­si­schen” Musik des 20. Jahr­hun­derts öffne(te)n und das auch in ihrer Musik hören las­sen. Das pas­siert bei Nabatov sowieso öfters, bei Nichols liegt es nahe, da auch er sich von zeit­ge­nös­si­chen Kom­po­nis­ten wie Bar­tók und Satie beein­flus­sen ließ. Jetzt kom­men noch Debussy, Ligeti und vie­les andere hinzu. Und es bleibt doch Jazz: Ein gar nicht so klei­ner Rest Unfer­tig­keit, eine deut­li­che Prise Spon­ta­nei­tät ist immer zu hören. Diese Offen­heit und Jetz­ge­bun­den­heit bei gleich­zei­ti­ger Dichte des Kla­vier­sat­zes und Fülle der Ideen — diese Kom­bi­na­tion ist typisch für Simon Nabatov (und ziem­lich einzigartig).

Gleich die ers­ten bei­den Stü­cke der CD las­sen das schon sehr deut­lich hören: Die in man­cher Hin­sicht etü­den­hafte (Ligeti!) wir­kende „2300 Skid­doo” und vor allem das weit aus­grei­fende, sich manch­mal auch etwas ver­lie­rende, hin und her wen­dende Moment des „Spin­ning Song” zei­gen Nabatov auf der Höhe sei­ner Kunst, sei­ner pia­nisti­chen Fer­tig­keit und sei­nes Ein­falls­reich­tums. Und wie hin­ge­bungs­voll er sich dann „Lady Sings the Blues”, Nichols bekann­tes­ter Kom­po­si­tion (weil Bil­lie Holi­day sie sang), wid­met, wie fein und dann auch wie­der kraft­voll er das aus­lo­tet — ein­fach wun­der­bar, ein ech­ter Hör­ge­nuss, der in sei­ner Viel­schich­tig­keit vie­les ent­de­cken lässt.
Immer aber gilt dabei: Nabatov pflegt einen sehr freien Umgang mit der Musik Her­bie Nichols. Er denkt sie wei­ter, entwickelt sie spie­lend wei­ter — so dass das am Ende eben durch­aus eine echte Nabatov-CD ist.


Matthias Mader

TomaJazz March 2012

La inmersion del ruso Simon Nabatov en el universo de Herbie Nichols resulta fascinante. Grabado en directo, Spinning Songs Of Herbie Nichols ofrece distintas formas de recrear los temas del pianista norteamericano. Para ello Nabatov opta fundamentalmente por realizar bien un acercamiento en el que los temas originales aparecen desde el inicio con un esqueleto que los lleva por terrenos ajenos al jazz, bien realizando una transformación a fondo en forma de improvisaciones. El célebre tema “Lady Sings The Blues”, la juguetona “Blue Chopsticks”, la bluesera “Sunday Stroll”, las remozadas “2300 Skiddoo” y “The Spinning Song”, o la fantástica revisión de “Third World” son algunos de los puntos álgidos de un gran disco a piano solo. La pregunta, ya es habitual: ¿por qué cinco años entre su grabación y su edición?

Pachi Tapiz


Culture Jazz France May 2012

Installé aux Etats-Unis depuis 1979, le pianiste Simon Nabatov a acquis depuis longtemps une réputation internationale justifiée. Il fait partie de ceux qui savent être écoutés et appréciés aussi bien que par les tenants des musiques free que par ceux qui préfèrent naviguer dans des eaux néo-romantiques plus rassurantes. Et le fait d’avoir assimilé toute l’histoire du jazz et de s’être impliqué dans les courants musicaux qui en sont issus lui permet de s’investir dans la musique de l’immense pianiste et compositeur afro-américain Herbie Nichols. Huit relectures amoureuses et fascinantes. (OUI !)


Bad Alchemy March 2012


Wenn einem bei SIMON NABATOV's "Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols" (LR 632) mit 'Terpsichore' das alte Griechenland begegnet, dann passt das zu den Widersprüchen, die sich mit dem 1963 mit nur 44 Jahren verstorbenen New Yorker Pianisten verbinden. Dass Nichols in der normalen Jazzwelt der Eisenhower-Ära nicht heimisch werden würde, deutet schon 1947 sein Titel 'The Third World' an, stilistisch ein Vorläufer von Coltrane's 'Giant Steps', terminologisch ein Verwandter des Third Stream, programmatisch aber die Vision eines Auswegs von der Alternative Schwarz-Weiß, Alte Welt-Neue Welt. Hatte Nichols nicht sogar "ein Prokofiev" werden wollen? Zu seinen posthumen Propheten gehörten Roswell Rudd, Steve Lacy und Frank Kimbrough mit The Herbie Nichols Project. Nabatov lernte ihn aber aus Moskau kommend auf der Gegenroute kennen, durch Misha Mengelberg. Und wenn er ihn spielt wie hier bei seinem ersten Nichols-Solo-Recital im Kölner LOFT 2007, dann schwingen, durchaus passend, neben Monk auch Bartok und Ligeti mit, letzterer explizit bei '2300 Skiddoo'. 'Blue Chopstick' beginnt als Kinderspiel und steigert sich zu Mickey Mouse at The Opry House. 'Lady Sings the Blues' darf danach eine Serenade bleiben, und 'Terpsichore' tänzerisch, während der 'Sunday Stroll' dazwischen von seiner emsigen Drehwurm-Routine nur ganz allmählich zu sonntäglicher Ruhe findet. Wer ein offenes Ohr für kapriziöse, un puristische Pianosophistication hat, der wird von Nabatov reichlich beschenkt.

Rigobert Dittmann


JazzFlits 10 Netherlands

In het rijtje pianisten die hun hart hebben verpand aan de muziek van Herbie Nichols voegt Simon Nabatov zich nu ook toe. Op ‘Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols’ gaat hij aan de slag met acht stukken van een van de meest onderschatte componisten uit de jazzgeschiedenis. Het bijzondere is dat de Rus uit Keulen erin slaagt om trouw te blijven aan de geest van de composities, maar er toch zijn eigen stempel op te drukken. Daartoe past hij op ieder nummer een ander procedé toe. Zo speelt hij ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ (misschien wel Nichols’ bekendste) uiterst in- tiem, en met een soort abstractie van het bluesgevoel. ‘Blue Chopsticks’ krijgt een geestige interpretatie doordat Nabatov het combineert met ‘Chopsticks’, een beroemd oefenstukje voor piano-novicen uit de Engelstalige wereld. Het is het enige stuk op de cd waar even de geest van Misha Mengelberg rondwaart – die andere beroemde Nichols-liefhebber. Want de klankwereld van de Rus verschilt bijna van dag en nacht met die van de Nederlander. Nabatov is, anders dan Misha, een klavierleeuw – al stelt hij zijn virtuositeit altijd ten dienste van de muziek. De wervelende omspelingen van het thema van ‘2300 Skiddoo’ zijn er een prachtig voorbeeld van. Dat Nabatov bovendien de jazz- geschiedenis van binnen en van buiten kent, horen we in de stukjes stride die her en der langskomen, maar ook in het Cecil Taylor-achtige arpeggio-spervuur dat hij bij tijd en wijle ontke- tent. Maar hoe hij de composities ook naar zijn hand zet, Nichols blijft overeind, en dan horen we eens te meer hoe prachtig diens muziek is.

Herman te Loo


Le Son du Grisli France May 2013

C’est qu’il n’est pas le seul, Simon Nabatov, à payer son dû à Herbie Nichols : Dave Douglas, Gerri Allen, Misha Mengelberg (grâce à qui Nabatov découvrit les compositions du new-yorkais), Frank Kimbrough et son Herbie Nichols Project ont, en leur temps, rendu hommage au génial pianiste. Deux ans après Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols (Leo Records), le pianiste russe se retrouve en solitaire sur la petite scène du Loft à Cologne. Et Herbie Nichols ne le quitte pas.

Ici, Nabotov prolonge et élargit les consonances du compositeur. Il fouille les aigus, s’y aimante (2300 Skiddoo) et en quelques occasions tente le parallèle avec Monk (The Spinning Bar). Ici, Simon Nabatov, introspectif ou loquace,  se positionne en qualité de passeur. Tempos en apesanteur (Lady Sings the Blues) ou passant du ragtime à la libre improvisation – et cela sans transition – (Twelve Bars), le pianiste russe dérègle les circuits harmoniques de Nichols et offre à ce dernier de nouveaux et singuliers émois.

Luc Bouquet

Culture Catch May 2016

Spinning Songs documents a 2007 solo concert by this Russian-born pianist, who clearly grasps the strengths of Nichols's compositions. He uses those strengths in two ways, either accentuating them or letting them fend for themselves – which, as he trusts, they can do -- as he uses them as launching pads for improvisations that can sound avant-garde or Impressionist. I have not heard such a stunningly imaginative album-length tribute from one jazzman to another since Giorgio Gaslini's Ayler's Wings (Soul Note) two decades earlier.

Steve Holtje

Citizen Jazz June 2019

Difficile de croire que le pianiste russe Simon Nabatov s’est produit pour la première fois à Chicago le 14 mai dernier. Même lorsqu’il vivait à New York dans les années 80 avant de se fixer à Cologne, l’occasion ne s’était jamais présentée pour lui. Son concert en solo a été une nouvelle occasion de faire du prosélytisme pour la musique d’un autre pianiste et compositeur sous-estimé : Herbie Nichols. Il semble en effet qu’après la disparition du tromboniste Roswell Rudd, Nabatov ait repris le flambeau pour se faire le chantre de la musique de Nichols. L’entame du concert est une improvisation, une sonate déglinguée, stridente et spasmodique. Progressivement, on reconnaît la mélodie de « House Party Starting », une des plus mémorables compositions d’Herbie Nichols, que Simon Nabatov ré-harmonise et déconstruit à souhait. Il se livre ensuite à un jeu, comme prisonnier d’un riff obsessif dont il essaie de se libérer pour revenir enfin au thème. Le pianiste enchaîne avec « East 17th Street » qui est en fait l’adresse où vivait le père de Nichols et où nombre de ses manuscrits et autres documents étaient entreposés avant qu’ils ne partent en fumée lors d’un maudit incendie. Nabatov commence par jouer à l’intérieur du piano, grattant les cordes pour évoquer une cithare. Il joue ensuite des phrases au clavier de la main droite qu’il reprend de la main gauche dans le ventre de l’instrument. Après un détour par un étrange boogie, le pianiste produit de grands mouvements dissonants avant de calmer le jeu et de revenir sereinement à la trame mélodique en égrainant les notes une à une. Le 14 mai était un dimanche. Nabatov n’avait pas d’autre choix que d’interpréter « Sunday Stroll », une composition très rythmée inspirée du blues. C’est aussi le morceau avec lequel le pianiste prend le moins de libertés, le jouant avec autorité et assurance. Cela ne l’empêche pas de recourir à nouveau à la dissonance avant de ralentir le tempo et d’aboutir à une conclusion pleine de mélancolie. Si beaucoup connaissent le « Lady Sings the Blues » de Billie Holiday, ils sont moins nombreux à savoir que l’on doit ce chef-d’œuvre à Herbie Nichols qui l’avait au départ intitulé « Serenade ». Une fois le thème exposé, Nabatov est presque à l’arrêt, choisissant chaque note après ce qui semble être une mûre réflexion. Il ramène petit à petit la mélodie à la vie avant de donner à sa musique une ampleur grandiloquente. Puis le calme revient et le morceau se conclut imperceptiblement, les dernières notes presque inaudibles. Du grand art. Le seul bémol de la soirée aura été la durée du récital : 45 minutes seulement, mais 45 minutes de bonheur.

Alain Drouot