Horace Silver in 1969
Horace Ward Nartin Tavares Silver a jazz pianist of
an unrestrainable temper, probably inherited through his Portuguese roots, was born in USA
in 1928 . His exciting career, as many other careers, started by an accident, when Stan
Getz, an already recognised saxophone player needed in 1950 a replacement for his usual
pianist Al Haig. Horace stayed with Getz but only for one year. He wanted to go on and
joined Art Blakey, one of the greatest jazz drummers of be-bob. Horace stayed there from
1951 till 1952. Later he played with Terry Gibbs, Coleman Hawkins, Oscar Pettiford and
Lester Young, the guys who paved the way for the modern jazz.
Already then Horace had a message to deliver. He joined "The Messengers" in 1955
and stayed there till mid of 1956. This was a good training. The quintet lead by Art
Blakey continued the be-bob traditions, but their own, "hard", pulsating way.
Horace shaped there his personality, ground and polished-up the sharp edges of it and got
impulses for creation of his own future style. In all those years he was active in several
other groups, playing his special rhythmical and joyful way.
Finally it was time to hit the road as a leader. His quintet created in 1956, included
among others Art Farmer (trumpet) and later Joe Henderson (tenor sax) and became a great
success. Since then he was playing with many jazz masters in various configurations and in
many groups of his own, mostly quintets. His quintets had a leading place within a so
called message jazz, a style promoting a dynamic, insisting, almost "violent"
and hard way of playing (Blackey). With this style of playing he forces his partners to
yield their best and pushes them to expose the outmost of their imagination, inspiration
and invention. The style of Horace inspires his soloist to use the maximum of their
musical the instinct, which basically is one of the main conditions for being a good jazz
Famous are his musical citations. He is a master in mentioning in his choruses short
phrases from the well known tunes, often classical music pieces. They fit always perfectly
in the actual improvisation and create a surprising effect of a dropped hint or a slightly
sketched allusion. Those fuzzy "by the ways" are one of the characteristic
elements of Horace's choruses.
Horace is well known as a father of the funky jazz. To define the term, it is a soul-like,
but very sharp way of playing jazz, keeping very close connection to the blues tradition
and the tradition of the gospel songs of black churches. The funk is often flavoured by
very open intonation of the solo instruments. Adding to that a tremendously joyful
atmosphere of Horace's improvisations, the picture of the Silverian music is almost
Horace Silver on the piano and, quite independently, Ray Charles as a singer, generated
the famous "e;soul wave" in the second half of the fifties. That wave has
been breaking into pop music since the sixties.The soul coming from the black churches,
never loosing the touch with them, became a secularised gospel music and that is what made
it so popular amongst the younger generation of th sixties.
On the top of being an outstanding instrumentalist, he is considered to be one of the most
eminent jazz composers. As a matter of fact, apart from the great Ellington since the
mid-twenties, Horace was one of the most productive and successful ones
The most distinguished tunes of his are "The Preacher" , "Doodlin'" ,
"Señor Blues" ,"Sister Sadie",
" Horace-Scope" , "Blowing the Blues Away" , " Opus de Funk"
and there are many, many others.
Discography ? It is a job for itself and already done by many specialists. However, as a
good starter I would recommend "Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers "(Blue
Note BLP 1518), "Songs for my Father"(Blue Note CDP 7 93206)" Pencil
Packing' Papa" (Columbia CK 62210) and many others. Horace gave concerts in
Copenhagen in 1962, 1966 and recently in 1996.
Some jazz columnists reproach Horace Silver for an unchanged musical language and
improvisation style since the late seventies. They accuse him for using the same musical
citations today, as he did then. Some others provoke him to stop playing, since he stands
still presenting no innovations anyway .
It is a fact, that Horace is not an innovator anymore, but he did already his job for
jazz. When he today records a blues, both his arrangement and the improvised choruses are
saturated with structural elements from half a century of blues history. and this is his
I still like his lovely and easily recognisable music. I also admire the fact, that he has
always been so faithful to his genuine silver funky style, and he still is the day today .
Well, it might be that now it is time for you to relish Horace's music !