Horace Silver

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Horace Silver

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Horace Silver (born Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva, September 2, 1928 – June 18, 2014) was an American jazz pianist and composer.[1]

Silver is known for his distinctive playing style and pioneering compositional contributions to hard bop.[2]He was influenced by a wide range of musical styles, notably gospel music, African music, and Latin American music, and sometimes ventured into thesoul jazz genre.[3][4]

Early life and career

Silver was born on September 2, 1928 in Norwalk, Connecticut.[5] His father, John Tavares Silva, was from the island of Maio, Cape Verde; and his mother, Gertrude,[6] was born in New Canaan, Connecticut, of Irish-African descent. His father, John, who worked in a rubber factory, taught him the folk music of Cape Verde.[7] John was born João Tavares Silva but changed the spelling of the family name to Silver after his son's birth.[8][9] Gertrude was a maid and sang in a church choir.[9]

Silver began his career as a tenor saxophonist but later switched to piano. His saxophone playing was highly influenced by Lester Young; his piano style, by Bud Powell. Silver's big break came in 1950, backing saxophonist Stan Getz at The Sundown Club in Hartford, Connecticut.[10] Getz liked Silver's band and took them on the road, eventually recording three of Silver's compositions. It was with Getz that Silver made his recording debut for the 1950 Stan Getz Quartet album, which featured Getz and Silver with Joe Calloway on bass and Walter Bolden on drums.[2]

In 1951, Silver moved to New York City, where he worked at the jazz club Birdland on Monday nights, when different musicians would come together and informally jam. During that year, he met the executives of the label Blue Note while working as a sideman. He eventually signed with them, remaining there until 1980. In New York, he co-founded the Jazz Messengers, a cooperatively-run group with Art Blakey.[11]

In 1952 and 1953, Silver recorded three sessions with his own trio featuring Blakey on drums andGene RameyCurly Russell and Percy Heath on bass. The drummer-pianist team lasted for four years; during this time, Silver and Blakey recorded at Birdland (A Night at Birdland Vol. 1) with Russell, Clifford Brown and Lou Donaldson; at the Bohemia with Kenny Dorham and Hank Mobley; and also in the recording studio. Silver was also a member of the Miles Davis All Stars, recording the Walkin' album in 1954.[12]

The album Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers was recorded on November 13, 1954 and issued in 1955. It was regarded as a milestone in the development of hard bop. It featured the mid-tempo blues "Doodlin'" and Silver's first hit "The Preacher".[2] During his time with Blakey, Silver rarely recorded as a leader; but, after splitting with him in 1956, he formed his own hard bop quintet, at first, featuring the same line-up as Blakey's Jazz Messengers, with 18-year-old Louis Hayesreplacing Blakey on drums.[12]