Horace Silver, 1928-2014

Well, this kind of sucks. Once again proving that the good can live a nice, long life, sometimes, jazz great Horace Silver passed away today at the age of 86. Silver was one of the most important figures of the “hard bop” era, which took the essence of the bebop era and grafted new elements onto it, particularly rhythm and blues but also blues, gospel, modal jazz, and even Afro-Cuban music. Silver, both as a solo artist and as the co-founder (with drummer Art Blakey) of the Jazz Messengers, really defined the genre in many ways. Silver, and Blakey, had a mind to get jazz back to something more than “great improviser shows up, plays standards with tight rhythm section,” and the Messengers reflected a commitment to writing and preparation that helped set the tone for jazz’s further development; as other artists like Miles and Ornette Coleman were stretching what “jazz” was (or stretching into other styles of music altogether), Silver and the Messengers really played a huge role in defining what “jazz,” at its core, would continue to be.

“Song for My Father” is Silver’s best known tune and probably being overplayed all over the Internets tubes today, but it’s honestly one of my favorite tunes ever. One of my best memories of the college jazz band was playing “Song for My Father” in concert with Roger Humphries, the drummer on the original album and a Pittsburgh native, as our guest performer. There are a lot of versions of this tune on YouTube, and I would encourage you to explore them if you’re interested, but I stick with the original mostly for the absolutely ridiculous Joe Henderson solo that starts somewhere just short of the 4 minute mark:

“Room 608,” from Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers:

“The Cape Verdean Blues,” from the album of the same name:


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