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STLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Pieces of Silver


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Today, StLJN temporarily suspends our usual locally oriented format to pay tribute to pianist Horace Silver, who died at age 85 a week ago Wednesday, June 18.

Known for more than 50 years as one of the leading composers and bandleaders in jazz, Silver performed and recorded with Stan Getz, Miles Davis and Art Blakey before launching his own group in the late 1950s. In the ensuing years, he become known as a prolific writer of tunes - many of which, like “Song For My Father," “The Preacher" and “Sister Sadie," have become jazz standards - and a bandleader with a real ear for up-and-coming talent.

Silver's ensembles provided some of the first high-profile exposure for a long list of musicians who went on to have significant careers, including saxophonists Hank Mobley, Junior Cook, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker, Bennie Maupin, and Bob Berg; trumpeters Blue Mitchell, Art Farmer, Woody Shaw, Tom Harrell, Randy Brecker, and Dave Douglas; and drummers Louis Hayes and Billy Cobham.

For a more comprehensive account of Silver's life and career, you can read the obituaries published by the New York Times and the UK Guardian.

Before we get to the videos, it should be noted that StLJN normally doesn't cover the passing of prominent jazz musicians without a St. Louis connection, leaving that to publications catering to a more general audience. But Silver's music was personally significant for yr. humble editor, as finding it in my early teens was a crucial step in furthering my understanding and appreciation of jazz.

While a lot of jazz pianists seemed flowery and/or abstract to me at that age, Silver's hard-driving, gospel- and blues-influenced sound was a bit easier to grasp, and had a familial resemblance to the blues and boogie-woogie piano styles that I already had been trying to learn. Silver's music helped me see that all of those styles were in fact connected and also provided a lot of listening enjoyment along the way, and for those two things I will be forever thankful.

So, in tribute to Horace Silver, we present a collection of live performance clips spanning 30 years of his long and productive career.

Up top is a version of what is perhaps his most famous composition, “Song For My Father," seen here in a recording from 1968, with Bennie Maupin (tenor sax), Bill Hardman (trumpet), John Williams (bass), and Billy Cobham (drums).

After the jump, you'll find versions of “Senor Blues," and “Cool Eyes" from 1958, with Junior Cook (tenor sax), Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Gene Taylor (bass), and Louis Hayes (drums).

Then it's three numbers from 1964 - “Tokyo Blues," “Pretty Eyes," and “The Natives are Restless Tonight" - all featuring Joe Henderson (tenor sax), Carmell Jones (trumpet), Teddy Smith (bass), and Roger Humphries (drums), followed by “Nutville" from the same 1968 session as above.

After that, you can see Silver and singer Andy Bey perform “Old Mother Nature Calls," which first was recorded in early 1971 for Total Response, the second album in Silver's United States of Mind trilogy. This version is from a broadcast of the TV program Soul on January 26, 1972.

Next up are versions of Weldon Irvine's song “Liberated Brother" and Silver's own “Summer In Central Park," recorded in 1974 at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy with a band including Bob Berg (tenor sax), Tom Harrell (trumpet), Mike Richmond (bass) and Willian Goffigan (drums).

That's followed by a full set from the 1976 Umbria fest, again featuring Harrell and Berg plus Steve Beskrone (bass) and Eddie Gladden (drums).

Then in two parts, it's “The Gods Of Yoruba" recorded in 1985 with Brian Lynch on trumpet, Ralph Moore on tenor and Carl Burnett on drums.

Today's final video comes from the 1987 Jazzfestival Bern in Germany, and features a version of “Filthy McNasty" in which Silver is joined by Burnett, Dave Douglas (trumpet), Vincent Herring (alto sax), and Brian Bromberg (bass).

You can see the rest of today's videos after the jump...

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
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