Big Nick Nicholas
George Walker “Big Nick” Nicholas (August 2, 1922, – October 29, 1997) was an American jazz saxophonist and singer. Strongly influenced by his hero, Coleman Hawkins, Nicholas in turn influenced a young John Coltrane to compose his tribute “Big Nick”, included on the 1962 album Duke Ellington & John Coltrane.
Nicholas contributed the 16-bar solo to Dizzy Gillespie’s classic African-Cuban jazz piece “Manteca” (1947). At that time, he also started playing with Hot Lips Page, a working relationship that continued until 1954. He joined Buck Clayton in 1955.
Nicholas started playing with Hank and Thad Jones, Earl Hines, and Tiny Bradshaw before going into the army and, on being discharged in the late 1940s, he worked with bands led by Sabby Lewis, J. C. Heard, and Lucky Millinder. He went on to play with Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Charlie Parker, and Charlie Mingus.
Nicholas died of heart failure in October 1997 at the age of 75.