I’m back from vacation but still not quite back in blogging shape, so this week’s tunes will be a short one. To facilitate that, I’ve picked an album that doesn’t need much description, pianist Horace Silver’s Song for My Father (1965). Even people who don’t know or like jazz very much have probably heard the title track off of this album, one of the best and best known tunes from the hard bop era. The whole album is a must own if you’re a fan of the period.
Silver first really hit the big time as the co-founder (with Art Blakey) of the Jazz Messengers, which became the proving ground for up-and-coming jazz artists from 1955 (or earlier; Blakey and Silver started working together in the early 1950s) until Blakey’s death in 1990, although its real heyday lasted about a decade, into the mid-60s. Silver left to form his own group in 1956, and his new quintet eventually coalesced around a lineup of Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Junior Cook on tenor sax, Gene Taylor on bass, and Roy Brooks on drums. Song for My Father was recorded in 1963 and 1964, as Silver was transitioning from that group to a new quintet: Carmell Jones on trumpet, Joe Henderson on tenor, Teddy Smith on bass, and Roger Humphries on drums. Although the first group is considered Silver’s “classic” group, it’s hard to beat the later lineup; Humphries is one of the all-time masters on drums, and there’s only ever been one Joe Henderson. This particular album, and particularly the title track, was inspired by a trip Silver had made to Brazil and the Latin/Portuguese influences he found there (the “father” in the title is Silver’s dad, John Tavares Silva (“Silva”/”Silver,” get it?), who was born in the Portuguese-colonized Cape Verde Islands, so that musical heritage also influenced things).
I’m going with the tracks on the original LP release here; later CD reissues add three bonus tracks plus an alternate version of one of the original tracks, but you’ll have to hunt those down for yourselves. All but one of these tunes was written by Silver, and four of the six were recorded by the second quintet listed above:
I’ve written elsewhere of my love for “Song for My Father,” but here it is again:
“The Natives Are Restless Tonight” has a different feel but some of the same influences, and lets Jones shine as much as Henderson did in the previous track:
“Calcutta Cutie” departs from the Latin theme, which makes sense because it was recorded in 1963, before Silver’s trip to Brazil, by the first quintet we mentioned above. It is, shockingly, intended to have an eastern/Indian vibe, and interestingly only uses the horns in the melodic statements at the beginning and end of the tune; the middle belongs entirely to Silver, Taylor, and Brooks. Brooks has a nice drum solo:
With “Que Pasa?” we’re back to the second quintet and the Latin influences:
Joe Henderson wrote “The Kicker,” a fast bop number that puts bassist Smith through his paces. Jones again has a great trumpet solo:
“Lonely Woman” was also recorded by the first quintet at the 1963 session. It’s a piano ballad, no horns involved. If you’re looking for a statement on Silver’s piano playing, this is the track: