Silver came along and helped to establish that bebop’s harmonic sophistication was not at odds with an old-fashioned love of melody or the inborn human need to connect with rhythm. That’s why the simplicity and honesty of “The Preacher” reached so many people in their hearts and their solar plexuses. Here’s that recording by the group that Silver co-led with Art Blakey, The Jazz Messengers.
That’s the first of two pieces by Horace Silver and the Messengers that you will hear in the course of this post. It brought to mind something I wrote for a 2000 compilation CD on the Savoy label. The two-disc album was called The Birth of Hard Bop. It was made up of music recorded in 1956 by groups under the leadership of Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan and Hank Mobley. Among the players are Horace Silver, Kenny Clarke, Arthur Taylor, Barry Harris, Doug Watkins and three people who could by no stretch be considered hard boppers — Hank Jones, Ronnie Ball and John LaPorta. The essay begins:
Unfortunately for box theory, try as you will to contain music, it flows around, into and out of boxes. Strict hard bop constructionists cannot force this album’s lyrical “I Married An Angel” into the category with any greater justification than they can jawbone Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud” (the Pacific Jazz version) into the shape of West Coast Jazz. Nearly half a century later, the music in this collection swings on in the category that matters most: the one labeled “Good.”
...I join Doug Ramsey in not giving a damn about the legitimacy of the terminology, because what really matters is that the music itself was among the most legitimate and exciting jazz ever created. – O.K.
This was several years ago. We’re still laughing.
The following was originally posted on June 9, 2011
Woke up this morning (no, that is not going to be the beginning of a blues lyric)... and decided on background music to preparations for the day.
I chose it because I wanted something that had solos I could sing, hum and whistle along with as I fixed breakfast. Every note ofHorace Silver’s second Blue Note album, the first by the Jazz Messengers, has been embedded in my brain since shortly after it was released in 1955. My record collection then consisted of 10 or 12 LPs. This was one of them. I played it so often that Silver’s, Kenny Dorham’s and Hank Mobley’s solos and Art Blakey’s drum choruses became part of my mind’s musical furniture. Silver, Blakey and bassist Doug Watkins comprised a rhythm section that was the standard for what came to be called, for better or for worse, hard bop. Dorham and Mobley, with their deep knowledge of chord-based improvisation, constructed some of their most memorable solos. Silver’s compositions—and one by Mobley—are classics.
Having heard “Room 608,” “The Preacher,” “Doodlin’” and the other tunes on this indispensable album this morning, I’ll feel good all day. Listen, and you will, too.
Thank you, Horace.