Album of the Day: Horace Silver, "Silver's Blue"

Album of the Day: Horace Silver, “Silver’s Blue”

Horace Silver
Silver’s Blue (CD Epic/Legacy 520240-2)

Sometimes a great album can be born completely occasionally, perhaps solely to comply with a contractual duty. Generally in these cases many artists make hasty recordings to get rid of the employment relationship and be able to start others (perhaps more lucrative) at different labels but Horace Silver, one of the most authentic voices of jazz ever, was certainly not the type to take anything lightly , let alone the creation of an album.

Silver had created a now historic album together with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1955 for Columbia, and the contract stipulated that each of the members of the group also made a record under their own name. Alfred Lion, the owner of the Blue Note stable, had already secured Silver’s services for his own label, and he remained faithful to it for almost thirty years thereafter; however, before being able to record for Lion, the pianist from Norwalk organized this quintet session to end his contract with Columbia. In reality, compared to the Jazz Messengers, the main difference is given by the absence of Blakey on drums; however, the choice of two stars such as Art Taylor and Kenny Clarke makes up for the lack of the volcanic Blakey excellently, giving the recording a more delicate flavour.

Like all of Silver’s records, this one too (which remained in the shadow for years compared to his other works) is the result of meticulous
writing work, with long-rehearsed and perfectly calibrated arrangements to obtain maximum precision without ever denying the pleasure of spontaneity. The musicians involved had reached an absolute level of cohesion, cemented in dozens of concerts. Hank Mobley (sax), Doug Watkins (bass), Donald Byrd (trumpet) are in great form and contribute to the album’s final success through inventive and generous solos that move perfectly at ease in the hardbop language.

The themes are mostly written by the leader but there is no shortage of beautiful covers of classics such as “How Long Has This Been Going on” and “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes”. Silver’s pianism is always enthralling in its blues-rich essentiality (where every single note counts) enriched by an ironic and biting phrasing whose rhythmic power is entrusted above all to the tireless drive of the left hand.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.