b. Nabil Marshall Totah, 5 April 1920, Ramallah, Jordan. As a child, ‘Nobby’ Totah played violin and piano. Relocating to the USA in 1944, he studied political science before deciding on a career in music.
Taking up the bass in 1953, just as he engaged in military service, he played in army bands and then with Hampton Hawes and Toshiko Akiyoshi. These engagements occurred while he was in Japan and on his return to the USA the following year, he played briefly with Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and then began long intermittent spells in small groups led by with Gene Krupa and by Johnny Smith.
Also during the 50s, Totah played with a wide range of artists including Eddie Costa, Tal Farlow, Bobby Jaspar, Herbie Mann, Zoot Sims, George Wallington and Phil Woods. During the next decade, he worked in bands led by Benny Goodman, Bobby Hackett, Max Kaminsky, Lee Konitz and Hazel Scott. Concurrent with these activities, Totah also led his own small groups using as sidemen a distinguished array of musicians, including Pepper Adams and Horace Parlan. A solid and reliable accompanist, Totah has always subordinated his role to the needs of the musicians he supports and has accordingly built a very high reputation within the jazz fraternity.