Horace Silver: Live At Newport '58 (2008)
Fifty years on, and previously unreleased, this boisterous festival performance by pianist Horace Silver's quintet is 40 minutes of hard swinging, compositionally distinguished, primo hard bop. It's also the only known recording by a band in the process of morphing from the line-up which recorded Further Explorations (Blue Note, 1958) to the one which cut Finger Poppin' (Blue Note, 1959).
The four tracks also include two outstanding but neglected pieces from the Silver canon, and the performance itself was recorded with excellent sound, presence and separation between the instruments.
Live At Newport '58 is, in short, an authenticated, certificated, number one with gravy, solid gold winner.
By 1958, Silver was a composer of note. For the Jazz Messengers, he'd written the signature blues/gospel pieces "Doodlin'" and "The Preacher," and he'd recently become a marquee star in his own name with the Latin-infused "Senor Blues" from Six Pieces Of Silver (Blue Note, 1957). "Senor Blues" and another popular tune from Six Pieces, "Cool Eyes," close the Newport set.
The lesser known openers, "Tippin'" and "The Outlaw," are real treats. "Tippin'" is composed in a traditional 32-bar, AABA structure, the attractive topline played over a driving, up-tempo groove. "The Outlaw" has a more complex forma 13-bar line, the last six over a Latin rhythm, played twice, then a ten-bar bridge, a 16-bar Latin vamp, and a two-bar tagbut one which the musicians, who solo on this ingenious stucture, navigate with poise.
The surprise in the line-up, of course, is Louis Smith. The trumpeter had joined the quintet only weeks before Newport, and was to leave (to return to teaching) just three months later, to be replaced by Blue Mitchell. Fats Navarro is a clear and present influence, apparent in Smith's rich tone, robust attack and flowing lines.
Though he rarely recorded live, Silver's expansive hard bop must frequently have blossomed in live club and festival performances, as it does here. One can only hope there are more previously unearthed gigs like this little beauty waiting to be discovered.
Track Listing: Introduction by Willis Connover; Tippin'; The Outlaw; Senor Blues; Cool Eyes.
Personnel: Louis Smith: trumpet; Junior Cook: tenor saxophone; Horace Silver: piano; Gene Taylor: bass; Louis Hayes: drums.