Horace Silver: Señor Blues

After the demise of the cooperative group known as The Jazz Messengers (Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Horace Silver, Doug Watkins, Art Blakey), Silver put together his own quintet and recorded Six Pieces of Silver. He hadn't intended to become a working bandleader, but the success of "Señor Blues" created a demand for the Horace Silver Quintet and launched Silver as a leader.

"Señor Blues" is a 12/8 Latin piece with a dark, exotic flavor that recalls no other jazz composer as much as Duke Ellington. The first two chords are E-flat minor and B7, resembling (whether consciously intended or not) one of Ellington's favorite harmonic gestures. Donald Byrd, Mobley and Silver carefully maintain the atmosphere of the piece in their solos. In that respect, Silver's dense chording behind the two horns is an enormous help; his own solo, after a written interlude by the horns, is an effective contrast.

August 27, 2008 · 0 comments


Horace Silver: Señor Blues (Live at Newport)

I read in the paper the other day that the value of Silver is on the rise. The folks at Blue Note must have taken notice, and dug into their vaults for some hidden Silver artifacts.

Okay, you want to gripe that Blue Note kept a great session unreleased for a half century. But that wouldn't be fair. In point of fact, the label only waited 49 years, 6 months and 28 days before letting us hear Horace Silver's dynamic Sunday afternoon set from the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

But we're lucky to get this at all. Thanks to Michael Cuscuna, who tracked down tapes (currently housed in the Columbia archives) that George Avakian had made of the entire festival that year, we can enjoy the sound of a great Silver band playing at top form. The sound quality is also outstanding -- not always a given when the Gringott's goblins dig up lost tapes from their dark, deep vaults.

Silver had enjoyed a mini-hit the previous year with "Señor Blues," and Blue Note even issued a 45-rpm single version to take advantage of the song's appeal. But the Newport audience is treated with the extended version, almost nine minutes long. Silver was a master of Latin, funk and hard-bop grooves, but he rarely did a better job of putting them all together into a single arrangement. Not only has this performance held up well after five decades, but it makes one nostalgic for the days when a memorable instrumental chart could become a jazz classic and a popular hit.

January 31, 2008 · 2 comments


Horace Silver: Señor Blues

One of the pioneers of the hard-bop movement, pianist Horace Silver composed a number of tunes with infectious rhythms and simple, earthy melodies that eventually gained classic status. One such composition, “Señor Blues,” with its 6/8 meter and catchy Latin rhythms, was recorded shortly after Silver left the Jazz Messengers, and it became one of his most popular. Except for the substitution of drummer Louis Hayes for Art Blakey, the personnel of this quintet, which uses the classic hard-bop instrumentation, is the same as that of the Messengers at the time of Silver’s departure.

October 22, 2007 · 0 comments


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