Jazz at 100 Hour 61: Horace Silver Continued (1959 – 1965)

Horace Silver – Blue Mitchell – Junior Cook

Despite revisionist history that suggests that the energy of hard bop was spent by the time the sixties came, in the last hour we heard from the great 1960s Freddie Hubbard – Wayne Shorter – Curtis Fuller – Cedar Walton edition of The Jazz Messengers. In this hour of Jazz at 100, we will turn to Horace Silver’s terrific 1960s quintets, featuring trumpeters Blue Mitchell, Carmel Jones and Woody Shaw; tenor players Junior Cook and Joe Henderson and guest trombonist – the veteran – JJ Johnson. The two flagship ensembles of hard bop were alive and well in the 1960s.

The Horace Silver Quintet with Blue Mitchell and Junior Cook.
“By the time he went into Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Hackensack for his next Blue Note album session early in 1959, he had assembled the quintet which, with occasional changes of drummer, would be his core band throughout the first half of the of the 1960s. It featured Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor saxophone), Gene Taylor (bass) and Louis Hayes (drums) in its original form … and the pianist moulded it into one of the archetypal hard bop groups. Despite the fact that it did not feature an established big name horn soloist (or perhaps for that very reason), the band was a superb conduit for Silver’s music, and developed into a tightly-knit confederation across the six years of its existence, a period which took in many of his most famous records. While Mitchell and Cook were not the most stellar or virtuoso of his hornmen, they were arguably the combination most fully attuned to his music, and the pianist himself had a particular soft spot for this pairing, regarding them as the most rounded, adaptable and dependable of his front line partnerships. The Mitchell-Cook [front line] recorded six full albums for Blue Note, beginning with Finger Poppin’ with the Horace Silver Quintet on 31 January, 1959.” – Kenny Mathieson

Finger Poppin’ proved a powerful debut for the new band, and contained Silver’s now customary blend, including the infectious ‘Swingin’ the Samba’, one his most appealing Latin forms with a typically unorthodox coda after what feels like the final ensemble chorus… ‘Juicy Lucy’ is a 32-bar AABA tune based on familiar bop changes, but with a distinctly bluesy feeling, and is a fine example of the way in which a bebop line and progression could be given an earthier and more blues-rooted treatment. The hard bop feel of the tune is underlined when Louis Hayes moves from swing time to backbeat on the bridge.” – Kenny Mathieson

Swingin’ The Samba. Horace Silver Quintet
(Blue Mitchell-tp, Junior Cook-ts, Horace Silver-p, Gene Taylor-b, Louis Hayes-d). From Finger Poppin’. 1/31/1959

Juicy Lucy. Horace Silver Quintet
(Blue Mitchell-tp, Junior Cook-ts, Horace Silver-p, Gene Taylor-b, Louis Hayes-d). From Finger Poppin’. 1/31/1959

“That line-up made only one more album, but it is arguably the strongest of all of Silver’s releases. Blowin’ The Blues Away is not only a superb compendium of his music, but also of the virtues of hard bop itself…. The album also featured Silver’s best known ballad, the beautiful ten bar composition ‘Peace’, which boasts one of his most beguiling melodies. – Kenny Mathieson

“Picking even a couple of favourites out of Silver’s run of Blue Notes is an invidious task. [Blowin’ The Blues Away] seems more than any other to exemplify all his virtues as pianist, composer and leader. The title-track goes off like a typhoon… ‘Sister Sadie’ is a soul-jazz classic which other bandleaders were quick to cover. It’s a typical Blue Note, a characteristic Silver session, but every part of it is powerful enough to transcend what would become clichés of the idiom; and the band all play superbly. Silver’s influence is hard to calculate but his immediate descendants include everyone from Chick Corea to Monty Alexander.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Sister Sadie. Horace Silver Quintet
(Blue Mitchell-tp, Junior Cook-ts, Horace Silver-p, Gene Taylor-b, Louis Hayes-d). From Blowin’ The Blues Away. 8/30/1959

Peace. Horace Silver Quintet
(Blue Mitchell-tp, Junior Cook-ts, Horace Silver-p, Gene Taylor-b, Louis Hayes-d). From Blowin’ The Blues Away. 8/30/1959

In mid-1964, Horace Silver completely revamped his line-up, in the midst of recording his LP Song For My Father. The new line up featuring Joe Henderson on tenor and Carmel Jones on trumpet was short lived, but their work on this LP was masterful.

Song For My Father, 1964.
“[‘Song for My Father’] employs a simple repeating vamp-like 2-note bass figure moving from F to C, and a 24-bar structure divided into three 8-bar sections, is in F minor, and that minor mood works against the usual gaiety associated with the bossa nova to create an unusual and striking effect. The fusion of elements evident in ‘Song for My Father’ reveals a musician at the height of his powers, comfortable with his materials, sure of his direction. In hard bop terms, the pianist’s discoveries were now behind him, but he continued to make strong and distinctive music.” – Kenny Mathieson

“Silver’s father – pictured on the cover [of Song For My Father] in the autumn of his life – was from the Cape Verde islands and the vernacular music from there played an important part in Horace’s upbringing. A later Blue Note – and there were to be another score and more for the label – was called The Cape Verdean Blues. Here, at a point where he was disbanding one group and starting a new one, Silver imports some striking elements of island rhythm. … A wonderful record that never fails to deliver.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Song For My Father. Horace Silver Quintet
(Carmell Jones-tp, Joe Henderson-ts, Horace Silver-p, Teddy Smith-b, Roger Humphries-d). From Song For My Father. 10/26/1964

Cape Verdean Blues, 1965.
“The success of [Song For My Father] inevitably led to further explorations of the possibilities in The Cape Verdean Blues, recorded in two sessions in October, 1965, half of which featured trombonist J. J. Johnson as a special guest. Trumpeter Woody Shaw and bassist Bob Cranshaw replaced Jones and Smith on this album, which featured five new tunes by the pianist, including the exhilaratingly uptempo ‘Nutville’ and ‘Pretty Eyes’, a rare Silver excursion into waltz time. – Kenny Mathieson

Horace Silver’s mid-1960s combo might have challenged Blakey’s supremacy in the hard-bop idiom, if only it had lasted longer. Saxophonist Joe Henderson and trumpeter Woody Shaw, two of the most promising younger jazz talents of the day, fronted this edition of Silver’s band, but unfortunately only one studio project, The Cape Verdean Blues, captured this lineup in action. Henderson joined the group in 1964, a few months before Shaw’s arrival in the band, and participated on Silver’s notable Song for My Father date. This release marked a critical juncture in Silver’s development as a composer, oddly inspired by a return to the Cape Verdean– Portuguese musical roots of his father—a tradition Silver had long dismissed. ‘My dad, through the years, had always said to me, ‘Why don’t you take some of this Portuguese folk music and put it into jazz?’ I never could see it. To me it always seemed corny.’ But a trip to Rio de Janeiro, where the inviting sounds of bossa nova were in the air, inspired Silver to attempt just such a Cape Verdean–jazz fusion. The resulting album became one of the biggest-selling releases in the history of the Blue Note label. Silver’s follow-up project, The Cape Verdean Blues, built on this same foundation and featured, in addition to Henderson and Shaw, guest artist J. J. Johnson.” – Ted Gioia

Nutville. Horace Silver Quintet with JJ Johnson
(Woody Shaw-tp, Joe Henderson-ts, JJ Johnson-tb, Horace Silver-p, Bob Cranshaw-b, Roger Humphries-d). From The Cape Verdean Blues. 10/22/1965

Pretty Eyes. Horace Silver Quintet
(Woody Shaw-tp, Joe Henderson-ts, Horace Silver-p, Bob Cranshaw-b, Roger Humphries-d). From The Cape Verdean Blues. 10/1/1965

In the past two hours of Jazz at 100, we have heard the continuing vitality of two anchors of hard bop – Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and the Horace Silver Quintet, two groups with evolving casts that continued to spin out future jazz players of note.

Over the next four hours of Jazz at 100, we’ll be featuring tenor players and trumpeters who propelled hard bop into the 1960s. In the next hour, we will start with tenor players JR Monterose, LA-based Harold Land and Teddy Edwards, and Blue Note’s most prolific player Hank Mobley.

Horace Silver. Finger Poppin’. Blue Note BLP 4008
Horace Silver. Blowin’ The Blues Away. Blue Note BLP 4017
Horace Silver. Song For My Father. Blue Note BLP 4185
Horace Silver. The Cape Verdean Blues. Blue Note BLP 4220

Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7 – The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles.
Mathieson, Kenny. 2002. Cookin’: Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65. Canongate Books.
Horace Silver
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Horace Silver. Blowin’ The Blues Away
Horace Silver. Song For My Father

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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