My life with Jazz and Chiaroscuro

by Nicholas Niles

As I look back on my love of jazz, I remember many really terrific jazz experiences. Now that I am a bit older, when I connect many of these seemingly unrelated experiences it is amazing how many connect in turn to Chiaroscuro. Here is one of my first ones. I hope you find it interesting.

In 1968, I was given a new job at LIFE Magazine to work in Advertising Sales in their Los Angles Office. We had to find a place to live and ended up renting a house in Benedict Canon while we looked for a place to settle down. The house was owned by Sherman Fairchild. I did not know Sherman, but a good friend of mine who worked for Time Magazine, John Heyd, knew his secretary and had learned from her that Sherman wanted to rent this house.  I had a phone conversation with Sherman who assured me that it was really a nice house and that only recently he had even redone the kitchen cabinets. I knew who Sherman was—the largest stockholder of IBM and founder of Fairchild Camera and Fairchild Semiconductor ( the latter has considered the start of what became Silicon Valley)- so I figured the house would probably up to the high standards that go with a young family with a toddler!

One day while we were living there, I got a call from Sherman who said he would like to come meet us. He was coming at 6 for a cocktail and was a little late arriving. There was a grand piano in the living room and so, while we waited for him, I played for a bit. I was playing “Honeysuckle Rose” when he arrived, and he immediately asked me where I learned how to play stride piano. For the next hour or so we hardly talked about anything else but music! It now seems remarkably naïve that I did not know of Sherman’s great interest and involvement with jazz. He had over the years known and supported many musicians…It seemed that there was really no one in the whole world of jazz he did not know.

It was years later that I learned that Sherman had been a founder of Chiaroscuro Records, a label which I was first attracted to because of the number of wonderful stride piano players.