Horace Silver was a remarkable jazz pianist and composer whose was influenced by a range of musical styles including African music, Latin American music and gospel music. He pioneered the hard bop style which merged both gospel and rhythm and blues musical elements with jazz. It was Silver’s unique style that became a major influence in modern jazz. His earliest influence was Portuguese folk music, however, he later drew most of his inspiration from blues singers, boogie-woogie and bop pianists.
Silver played both the saxophone and piano when in his teens. His playing styles of both instruments were influenced by saxophonist Lester Young and pianist Bud Powell, which were later emulated by mainstream pianists. During his performances he was discovered by saxophonist Stan Getz who later hired Silver and his band to tour with him. It was during this time with Getz that three of Silver’s compositions were recorded. Eventually, he signed up with Blue Note label and formed a group called The Jazz Messengers.
He exclusively recorded for Blue Note producing hits like “The Preacher”, and “Doodlin’”. He also featured a lot of rising jazz starts in his bands such as Junior Cook, Blue Mitchel and Louis Hayes. Key albums that he produced with his band include “6 Pieces of Silver”,” Horace Silver Trio” and “Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers”.
Throughout his musical career, Silver produced numerous albums, however, the album “Song for my Father”, which he produced with his new quintet featuring Joe Henderson and Carmel Jones became an all-time hit. Some of his albums also featured interesting musicians such as Randy Brecker. Silver’s compositions became increasingly popular due to their catchy tunes and strong harmonics as his his band progressively changed to funk and soul. Silver became a musical force and a great influence to pianists like Bobby Timmons and Ramsey Lewis.
Horace Silver was an American jazz pianist, band leader and composer. Born on 2nd September, 1928 in Norwalk, Connecticut, Silver’s early musical interests was as a result of exposure to a myriad of musical styles. His father of Portuguese descent had migrated to the United States from Cape Verde while his mother was of Irish-African descent from New Canaan, Connecticut. Silver studied saxophone and piano as a teenager and although his early influences included African music, gospel music and Portuguese folk music, his musical style influences were blues singers, boogie-woogie and bop pianists such as Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk.
He began his career as a tenor saxophonist; however, he later changed to piano. In 1950, Silver was discovered by saxophonist Stan Getz. At the time, the saxophonist was playing with silver’s trio at the Sundown Club, Hartford, Connecticut. Getz was so impressed by the trio that he decided to tour with them on a regular basis. For one year, Silver remained with Getz and it was during this time that three of his compositions were recorded. Collectively, Split kick, Potter’s luck, and Penny.
In 1951, Silver moved to New York, where he worked at the Birdland jazz club. It was during this year that he met the Blue Note Records executives. In 1952 he signed up with the label and remained with them until 1980. During this period he formed a band known as Jazz Messengers with a man called Art Blakey. By 1956, Silver was a band leader to his own quintet and had created a genre of jazz known as hard bop, which was a combination of gospel music, rhythm and blues with jazz.
His compositions featured tempo shifts and a variety of melodic concepts. His base lines were aggressively percussive but he also had a buoyant melodic touch to his music. Silver was an exemplary performer and his piano playing style and complexities of sound in his music got him widespread attention. Through the years, he showcased several new talents such as, Blue Mitchel, Junior Cook, Hank Mobley, Joe Henderson, Brecker Brothers, Woody Shaw and Louis Hayes.
Silver was a prolific composer and was among the few jazz musicians to record original material. Some of his biggest hits were “The Preacher”, “Cape Verdean Blues”, “Song for my father”, and “Sister Sadie”. He also recorded a number of albums with his quintet, such as “Horace Silver Trio”, “6 Pieces of Silver”, “Blowin’ the Blues Away”, and “Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers”
Eventually, Silver’s association with Blue Note came to an end but this did not stop him from producing more beautiful animated music. In 1985, he added a new album to his collection called “Continuity of Spirit”. To-date he is celebrated for pioneering the hard bop style, which propelled jazz music to new heights. He has received much recognition earning him the President’s Merit Award in 2005 from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. His music has influenced pianists such as Ramsey Lewis, Les McCann and Bobby Timons as well as rock musicians. The musically talented and remarkable Horace Silver currently lives with his family in California.
Videos and Recordings
Horace Silver plays Song for My Father: