Courtesy Blue Note Records
Legendary jazz pianist, composer-arranger and poet-sculptor of funky hard bop, dies at age 85
Horace Silver was brilliant. A populist musician-performer, he loved and respected the audience he’d helped build for an earthy style of bebop deeply rooted in jazz’s blues and gospel origins. With drummer Art Blakey, Silver co-founded the conquering Jazz Messengers. I’m old enough to remember seeing his name listed as Stan Getz’s pianist on 78- and 45-rpm discs on the Royal Roost label when, at age 12, I began to collect records in earnest. I remember, too, the time I called to speak to him when Phil McKellar, a radio DJ at CKLW — a Canadian station in Windsor, Ontario, across the river from Detroit — was interviewing Silver right after Six Pieces of Silver, his first Blue Note album, came out.
A tuba player in Detroit’s Central High band, I was just beginning to play trumpet. In a live broadcast Horace asked: “Al, do you play?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Oh, yeah, all right! Come on down to the club, man — and bring your horn.”
I almost died. I’d just sarted taking lessons. By the time he reached his late teens, Horace Silver had moved¬† from Connecticut to New York to play professionally.
Consider the titles of some of his classics: “Se√Īor Blues,” “Opus de Funk,” “Quicksilver,” “The Preacher,” “Filthy McNasty ,” “Sister Sadie,” “Doodlin’,” “Opus de Funk,” “Nica’s Dream,” “Strollin,'” ‘The Tokyo Blues” “The Bagdhad Blues,” “Psychedelic Sally,” and “Song for My Father.”
Is there a price we can place on the treasury of pleasure Horace Silver has left to us?
— Al Young
Horace Silver, a pianist, composer and bandleader who was one of the most popular and influential jazz musicians of the 1950s and ‚Äô60s, died on Wednesday at his home in New Rochelle, N.Y. He was 85.
His death was announced by Blue Note Records, the company for which he recorded from 1952 to 1979.
After a high-profile apprenticeship with some of the biggest names in jazz, Mr. Silver began leading his own group in the mid-1950s and quickly became a big name himself, celebrated for his clever compositions and his infectious, bluesy playing. At a time when the refined, quiet and, to some, bloodless style known as cool jazz was all the rage, he was hailed as a leader of the back-to-basics movement that came to be called hard bop.
¬© Blue Note Records
Horace Silver, composer and pianist; Donald Byrd, trumpet, Hank Mobley, tenor saxophone; Doug Watkins, bass; Art Blakey, drums
¬© Columbia Records
¬†¬© Francis Wolff | Mosaic Images