Alyn Shipton pays tribute to the British jazz multi-instrumentalist who died on 20 January
Because Keith Nichols could play most of the instruments in a band as well as, if not better than, the individual players themselves, he garnered a special respect and affection among musicians. Watching him rehearse the Royal Academy of Music jazz big band was a delight, as he shared every level of his expertise with his young students, and infused a generation brought up on the sounds of today’s players with a genuine passion for playing music from previous eras. Although he was a junior accordion champion, Keith mainly specialized on trombone and piano throughout his playing career. He was also a talented arranger, and tackled everything from Joplinesque ragtime to 1940s big bands with flair and attention to detail. But he was never hidebound by one period of jazz or another – when I once asked him to arrange a couple of Mingus pieces for a broadcast, he obliged with a really excellent pair of charts.
I first heard Keith in the mid-1970s New Paul Whiteman Orchestra