Why should I bother with this? It’s 57 years old! Quite simply because Horace Silver and a select group of other New York musicians broke the mould. They created a new sound- ‘Hard bop’. Stealing the words of my mate Matt ‘They had something to say!’ Stealing from Gilles Peterson- Talking Loud, Saying Something! Adding my own view- Playing Great, Sounding Ace! And..although the sound is superb, Rudy Van Gelder, recorded this and other classics in his mum and dad’s front room in Hackensack, New Jersey.
The band etc:- Horace Silver (piano); Donald Byrd(trumpet);Hank Mobley (tenor sax); Doug Watkins(bass); Louis Hayes(drums). Recorded 10 November 1956. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Leonard Feather. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 1539.
The Music:- This great session was recorded some 57 years ago (at the time of writing). I’d like to be able to write that this was one of the first Blue Note sets that I heard and that its excellence paved the way to other things. That wouldn’t be true. I bought it on an RVG series CD last weekend but I haven’t stopped listening to it since although all of the musicians seem like old friends from other outings. I think, in part, I didn’t buy earlier because I was put off by the front cover. This, in my view, is far from Francis Wolff’s best picture or Reid Miles’s most striking example of his adventurous design.
The playing sounds so fresh and the performers so disciplined. There’s no sloppiness here. Remarkably, the average age of the five musicians was a shade under 24 with 28-year-old Horace Silver being the oldest of the bunch by two years. Silver and Art Blakey were part of a tight group of New York based musicians who developed the ‘hard bop’ style of playing, drawing on the blues, gospel and R&B. Horace Silver’s own influences were diverse. Richard Cook writing in ‘Blue Note Records, The Biography’ identified how Silver had ‘…absorbed an unusually wide range of music’. His mother had sung gospel in church, he listened to Latin bands and to blues records from the previous two decades, which Cook notes as surprisingly unusual listening for a young man in the 40’s. He had worked with Stan Getz in 1950 and had befriended Lou Donaldson and Art Blakey soon afterwards.
Cool Eyes is a lively opener with Hank Mobley delivering the first solo and offering up a run that shows he had listened very closely to alto genius, Charlie Parker. Shirl is an engaging ballad with Silver playing in a trio of piano, drums and bass.
Camouflage is a great funky gospel-tinged tune with 3 solos near perfection in under four and a half minutes. Take a listen courtesy of koastone on YouTube
Enchantment closes side one of the original LP with a Latin feel. Of course with the CD format it is not necessary to stop what you are doing to flip the disc and Senor Blues follows immediately. This is the tune that caught the attention of the multitude, as the album’s standout track. It got so much play that it led to Horace Silver putting together a working band to tour the clubs. It was later re-recorded as a 45 rpm single and with a vocal, both of which appear on the RVG CD. rogerjazzfan has uploaded to YouTube for your pleasure.
Virgo dashes along with some space for the young drummer to impress, while the set closes with For Heaven’s Sake. This is a return to the trio format and is the only non Horace Silver penned tune on the album.
Original sleeve notes are of the (Leonard) feathered variety, offering moderate encouragement, biographies and a brief run through the tracks- with little to annoy (but remember, I’ve got my eye on you Mr. Feather!).
You can get hold of this on CD with all the extra tracks for @ £4.00, although the ultimate listen is possibly the Blue Note first pressing, a fabled Lexington as the cognoscenti say. If you want to know more about that please visit the superb http://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/horace-silver-six-pieces-of-silver-1956-lexington/ but please come back here again!
So there you have it. I think this is actually the fifth Horace Silver set currently in my collection, although there may be a couple of old tapes from the 80’s when I used to borrow and record library copies on cassette. I recommend it highly- purchase and enjoy!
As Matt would say:- ‘They had something to say!‘