Final Note: Herb Mickman

Former Life Member. String Bass
3/1/1940 – 1/14/2017

By Stuart Aptekar

Herb developed a love of music throughout his life. An early friendship with Eddie Daniels continued to inspire Herb as he played bass in the Newport Youth Band and was hired in the Catskills Hotel house band with drummer Steve Schaeffer, who later joined Herb with Sarah Vaughn. By this time, Herb had concentrated his interest in jazz, having completed his first road trip to England with Peter Nero.

By age 19, Herb was playing jam sessions on bass, and hired to be a regular member of the Monday night rhythm section at Birdland. Not afraid to ask his heroes about their hip chord changes, Herb collected a lifelong inventory of great chords and voicings of standards and jazz tunes. His piano playing encouraged him to sit near pianists such as Bill Evans, Kenny Barron, Bud Powell, and Barry Harris, and in this way, learn some of their secrets. During this period, Herb could be seen wheeling his bass to the subway to get his bass lessons with Charles Mingus. The stories that Herb experienced as a student, player, jazz fan and teacher are worth rehearing. As a storyteller and pianist, he became a close friend with Howard Danzinger, a pianist and humorist in New York. When Herb moved to Los Angeles, he played bass with Barney Kessel, Paul Smith and Ross Tomkins. He was friends with Frank Collett whom he hired to join Sarah Vaughn. As music director for Sarah Vaugh, Herb had hired Chick Correa and played with Bob James in her trio before that.

Herb was a member of the Clayton/Hamilton big band and recorded with them at Monterey. His friendship with some of the top pianists includes Victor Feldman, Lou Levy, Jack Russin and Frank Colett. Herb’s favorite pianist was Hank Jones. Herb Mickman was a well-respected teacher of bass, piano and harmony.

9 thoughts on “Final Note: Herb Mickman

  1. Flint Long

    I took one lesson from Herb in 1974. He was kind and patient. I happened to mention that I needed a substitute bass player for my quartet gig the next night in Westwood at Casey’s Bar. He told me, “Hire me. I like to work.” But I felt so, well, inferior to this great talent, I felt like how can I invite this guy to come down from Mount Olympus to play with my silly little band. But he did. That night on a break he showed me some hipper changes to Georgia on my Mind. He was on the top rung of the jazz world amongst all the greats. I can’t believe he played one of my gigs with me and my guys! Haha. I still have the notes and examples from the one lesson I took from Herb. I didn’t take anymore because I was headed for rock season of life, not jazz! God bless his memory!

  2. John Holbrook

    I moved to L.A. from Vancouver Canada for six months in 1974 to take piano lessons with Herb. I was twenty eight and he was thirty three. He would play at Dantes in North Hollywood and sit with me during breaks. He introduced me to his jazz heavyweight friends. We bought car radios together. He invited me to a Neil Hefty big band rehearsal for a Disneyland gig. He was the greatest!!! When I had to leave America because my legal time to stay was expiring he told me not to go because my music would suffer. He was right! I regretted having to go and still do. He was a great teacher and I like to think of Herb as a friend even if we knew each other for a brief time. Over the years he has constantly been in my thoughts. I am very sad to know that Herb has passed away, but am grateful for the love and friendship he has shown so many people. He is missed and loved by many! Bless you Herb Mickman and thank you! John Holbrook

  3. byron weber

    Although I played classical flute in college, some 20 years later I found Herb and took lessons from him to learn to play jazz on the soprano sax. He accompanied me on piano. He insisted on lessons once every two weeks because he’d learned it takes that long to learn a lesson. He was hard on me, but I learned so much, every scale from every note in each scale in intervals plus the jazz classics. Over a year later I returned for a lesson and we played “God bless the child.” Afterwards, he looked into my eyes, smiled without saying a word and I knew I’d done something special. I can’t begin to describe what he gave me emotionally. Thank you Herb.

  4. Ashmead Niamat

    Herb was my neighbour and a very dear friend when we both resided on Colfax Studio City Ca.
    I took piano lessons from him for a brief period.
    He was a warm,kindhearted and very talented man.
    I regret just knowing today he passed on and was not able to attend his service.
    God bless him.

  5. Marc Kane

    Mr. Mickman was a very nice person and a patient and kind piano teacher to me in the early 70’s.
    He taught how to read and interpret chords and how to play different inversions of chords which made them beautiful.
    I owe much of my career in music to Herb.

  6. Katie Parkin

    I remember very vividly Herb Mickman. I was learning piano Chords derived from Herbs most provocative mind. He played piano for me at one time for a gig. I wanted to learn A train. I sang the lyrics and Herb sarcastically said : You have never been on the A Train……Have you?: I have a sign that he gave me that quoted: “Play the sheet music changes and go to prison.” He disappeared and I moved to Utah and I just found out he pass in 2017. Katie Parkin

  7. Lucille Joyner

    Does anyone know what Herb died from? I’d really like to know.
    We were friends for years, then lost touch. He was always in pretty good health.

  8. Gary P. Flyer

    I was a good friend and fellow musician. Herb stood taller than all the other musicians we knew. We played in the Catskill Mountain hotels in the Fifties and jammed late into the night after hours.
    As good a bass and pianist, Herb was a kind and dear friend. We lost touch when Herb went to L.A. but ran into each other over the years. He loved music and was always looking to learn and add something new to his voluminous knowledge of the bass and piano.
    Ms. Gittelson’s comment on his being missed is true and I am one of those who miss him, his music and friendship most.

  9. Anita Gittelson

    So sorry … Herb was a fellow James Madison High School student In Brooklyn. Our friendship continued in California. He was my late son, Robert Gittelson’s, piano teacher and even hired the band and played at my younger son’s, Gerry, Bar Mitzvah.

    His talent was as huge as his dear heart.

    He will be missed. Anita Gittelson

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