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Guest Playlist #3


Guest Playlist #3:The Gang of Four + One Playlist

Guest Playlist is a special feature here at the PJP website. We asked musicians, artists, DJs, journalists, dancers, politicians, and average Jazz fans to share a playlist of music that is important to them. We wanted to get and share what folks are listening to and what they think the rest of us should check out. We see it as a way of communing and showcasing the music in ways that the standard approach cannot do.

This playlist is a special one. Honoring the trickster nature of our guest playlist creator, we will call it the Gang of Four + One Playlist. The name points attention to both the infamous leadership of communist China of the 1960-70s, known as the Gang of Four and Hiphop's pioneering Funky Four Plus One: the first Hiphop from the Bronx to get a record deal. The tricky name of this playlist brings us to our guest playlist creator, Rich Nichols.


During the early summer of 2014, PJP director Homer Jackson asked friend and colleague, Rich Nichols, manager/producer of Philadelphia Hiphop group and Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon house band, The Roots to share with our readers a Jazz music playlist. These two men served together as radio hosts and deejays at Temple University's WRTI radio station during the 1980s. Unfortunately, Nichols who was ill at the time of Jackson's request, was unable to complete a playlist and died a short time later. The following is a list of some of Nichols favorite tunes to play during his radio show days, that Jackson gathered from old tapes, notes, remembrances and dialogues with other WRTI colleagues.  


*Important note: Although Rich Nichols worked within the realm of Pop and Hiphop music, that in no way limited his taste in music. Be prepared for a full musical adventure. This is not "easy" music.  


Some of these songs you can find online at YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, or Pandora.


LJenkins1. Leroy Jenkins - “Through the Ages Jehovah”
From the album,  Space Minds, New Worlds, Survival of America, 1978


Musicians: Leroy Jenkins - violin, Andrew Cyrille - percussion, George Lewis - trombone, electronics, Anthony Davis - piano, electric piano, Richard Teitelbaum - synthesizer, Moog synthesizer;




CecilT2. Cecil Taylor - “Second Layer Part Two”
From the album,  Indent, 1973

Musicians: Cecil Taylor-piano;

Recorded live at Antioch College, Ohio, March 11, 1973.







Murray-Ming3. David Murray "Ming"
From the CD, Ming, 1980

Musicians: David Murray - tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Henry Threadgill - alto saxophone; Olu Dara - trumpet; Lawrence "Butch" Morris - cornet; George Lewis - trombone; Anthony Davis - piano; Wilber Morris - bass; Steve McCall - drums;



AdamsPullen4. George Adams & Don Pullen - “Double Arc Jake”
From the album,  Don't Lose Control, 1980

Musicians: George Adams - tenor saxophone and flute, Don Pullen - piano, Cameron Brown - bass, Dannie Richmond - drums; Recorded live at Theatro Ciak in Milan, Italy in November 1979;






MichelP5. Michel Petrucciani - “Juste Un Moment”
From the album, Michel Petrucciania, 1981

Musicians: Michel Petrucciani - piano, J.F. Jenny-Clark - bass, Aldo Romano - drums;






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As to the nature of the choices, Homer Jackson adds:


As young people fascinated with Jazz and as radio personalities in the 1980s, Rich Nichols and I had a front row seat to the culture wars between various conservative, commercial, or experimental factions within the Jazz community. However, believing that all of this music could and should co-exist, we created shows that brought together the entire spectrum of the music.


Rich Nichols was one of the best programmers in terms of playing music from across the diverse panorama of Jazz. He'd play music from Art Tatum and Fatha Hines, to Mary Lou Williams and Thelonious Monk; from McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock to Cecil Taylor and Anthony Davis in one entertaining segment.


Often, Rich would come to the station carrying no records or CDs of his own. Nor would he have made a plan for his show. He would simply take a few minutes to grab a few interesting records out of the new releases bin and spend a little time figuring out segues. The transitions were important to him. Probably the most important aspect of programming a show.


For him, and I should extend that to say for many of us, as deejays, it was about improvising and responding to what was playing, what responses we got from our audiences via telephone; as well as and how we felt emotionally that day and what we had on hand that stood out from the new releases. That's how Rich Nichols developed his shows.


Violinist Leroy Jenkins' brief composition, "Through The Ages Jehovah" comes on like a haunting, ancient memory from a long lost future. Jenkins gave Ornette Coleman violin lessons, was a member of Chicago's important AACM organization and created music theater works; one of which Homer Jackson wrote the libretto. In "Through The Ages Jehovah,” trombone and violin announce a cozy, nostalgic theme that is both familiar and new. Like a march from some religious order of yesteryear, this short introspective composition caught Rich's attention. He would use this song in a recent Questlove project at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, entitled "Shuffle Culture."


Cecil Taylor is one of the founding architects of avant-garde Jazz. The album "Indent" was of Rich's favorites. Rich loved that Cecil Taylor recorded short pieces. Rich thought they were the perfect way of presenting Taylor's overwhelming musical approach and performances to people who had never heard him. These tunes were just long enough to possibly aggravate, but not alienate. Rich thought playing Cecil Taylor’s short work during a set was like slipping vegetables into a lasagna.
 Much of the solo piano works on the later Roots albums are influenced by Taylor's work.


The Ming album from tenor saxophonist David Murray was an important record for us during our early days at WRTI. Just a few years older than us, David Murray left his home in Los Angeles and came to New York and established himself as a serious tenor saxophonist in the avant-garde Jazz community by avoiding Coltrane inspired cliches. By 1980, with Ming, the 25 year old Murray had signaled a shift in the work of the avant-garde which moved from individual improvisational virtuosity to return to the tradition for inspiration, as well as an emphasis on collective composition and arrangement. Ironically this happened at the very same time that the 19 year old Wynton Marsalis joined the Jazz Messengers.


Rich Nichols would eventually get to know and love David Murray as colleagues and friends. Murray performed with the Roots in numerous concerts and in productions that Nichols helmed. And in a fitting manner, David Murray played a spirited and moving version of “Ming” at Richard Nichols Memorial Event.


One group that got into his rotation relatively often was the dynamic George Adams & Don Pullen Quartet. Again, Rich loved powerful, heavy-handed pianists, particularly those that comfortably brought both beauty and noise. Don Pullen was a particular favorite. George Adams was one of the few post-Coltrane tenor sax players that Rich enjoyed. These two men were powerful and engaging performers and their repertoire spanned the entire diaspora of Black music. Their tune in this playlist, "Double Arc Jake" exemplifies that spirit.


The appearance of recordings by French pianist, Michel Petrucciani in the early to mid 1980s had everyone excited. Hearing the muscular and elegant sound of this amazing pianist was simply wonderful. Learning that this keyboard giant was actually an astonishingly, tiny human being, afflicted with an incredibly debilitating disease made us even more passionate about listening to his work and sharing his story.


Rich Nichols loved Michel Petrucciani's music. Rich was fascinated by big powerful pianists with no fear of playing with the entire history of Jazz in a single tune, if they so desired. Majestic pianists like McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Jackie Byard, Sir Roland Hanna, John Hicks, Don Pullen, Hilton Ruiz, Kirk Lightsey, Cedar Walton and Michel Petrucciani were some of his go-to artists. The tune, "Juste Un Moment" shows Petrucciani in his his best form, flying across the keys with speed, dexterity and finesse, illuminating why he was one of the most popular global Jazz artists of the 1980s and 90s.


Rich Nichols was an individual whose life was changed by his interest in, investigation of, and passion for Jazz. His experiences at radio station WRTI would help to shape many of his philosophical approaches to music creation, presentation, artist development and audience engagement. This short playlist in no way represents the broad, sweeping breadth of his understanding or interest in music. It is but a taste of the path that he etched in his travels as a young person trying to make sense out of what he heard and enjoyed.

nicholsGuest Playlist creator, Rich Nichols was a native Philadelphia writer, producer and longtime manager of The Roots: The Philadelphia-based, Grammy award winning, house band for the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Nichols managed the band from its inception and was instrumental in every aspect of The Roots’ creative, cultural, and professional life over the past two decades. He was a graduate of Saint Joseph’s High School and attended Temple University as an Engineering student. During the 1980s, he served as a radio host and deejay at Temple University based Jazz radio station; WRTI. Nichols is also credited as producer, executive producer, mixer and A&R on several Roots albums and projects by many artists including Jay-Z, Al Green, Common, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and the Jazzyphatnastees.

For more info on Rich Nichols: Click Here


*If you would like to submit a Guest Playlist, contact us at


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Tags : GuestPlaylist RichNichols Playlist TheRoots Questlove BlackThought.LeroyJenkins DavidMurray CecilTaylor MichelPetrucciani GeorgeAdams DonPullen WRTI FunkyFourPlusOne GangofFour GangofFour+OnePlaylist HomerJackson


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