Horace Silver 1928-2014

John Fordham pays tribute in The Guardian
Horace Silver (right) pictured with Miles Davis (left) at the piano
From John Fordham (The Guardian):
From the mid-1950s on, the perfect antidote for jazz fans to the grumbles of the jazz-averse (that it was a wilfully obscure music, made by introverts who didn’t know the meaning of "entertainment") was to spin them a Horace Silver record. Silver, who died on Wednesday at the age of 85, was one of the most accessible and exuberant of all the jazz artists inspired by the revolutionary bebop movement of the 1940s. If some found bop byzantine and baffling, Silver’s compositions and piano-playing began offering arrow-straight routes through it in the following decade - characterised by R&B and gospel-inflected tunes, earthily funky grooves, and powerful soloing that rarely let the main theme slip far out of earshot. He was also powerfully influenced by the Afro-Portuguese music of the Cape Verde Islands, his father’s birthplace.

Silver’s method came to be known as "hard-bop", and its whiplash backbeats, rootsy rhythms and anthemically chant-like songs made it one of the most widely popular of all jazz styles. He wasn’t its only architect, but he was one of its most widely influential - because he not only focused jazz on fundamentals, but defined the classic small-band lineup of the 50s and 60s (trumpet, sax, piano, bass and drums), talent-spotted rising stars (notably trumpeters Donald Byrd and Dave Douglas and saxist Joe Henderson), and in developing a largely original repertoire, gave the jazz world a raft of new standard-songs still widely played today. Moreover, Silver was the co-founder - with drummer Art Blakey - of the famous Jazz Messengers, the archetypal hard-bop band that under Blakey’s later leadership was to include Wayne Shorter and a teenage Wynton Marsalis in its three decades on the road.

With his genial manner, bent-double playing posture and unorthodox clawlike fingering (the better to hit emphatic chords and make individual notes crack like gunshots), Silver was also a riveting presence on a stage. He undoubtedly turned on many jazz players and listeners who discovered the music over the past half century, and it’s hard to imagine the dancefloor-oriented "acid jazz" movement of the late 1980s happening without him. [Read More]

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