My Conversation with Horace Silver
AAJ: Let's touch on a former member of one of your quintets, Tom Harrell.
HS: Tom is a great artist. Yes, Tom, I just heard about Tom from Woody Herman. I was playing in Chicago and Woody was in Chicago. He wasn't playing that night or something and he came by the club to hear us. I saw him standing out there at the bar, so when I came off the stage, I went over to him to say hi. I think that was the first time that I had met him and I introduced myself to him. We got to talking. We had a couple of drinks and he said, "Man, I got a fine young trumpet player in my band. He's crazy about your music." I said, "Gee, I've got to check him out sometime. Maybe I can use him." The next time I saw him, we played up in Boston at the Jazz Workshop in Boston. In the back of the room, there was another jazz room called. Woody's band was in one room and we were in the front room called the Jazz Workshop. Naturally, during our intermission, we'd run back into the other room and try to catch one of Woody's tunes if he was still on, the same thing with his band. When they got off, they came running into our room and try to catch us. I went in there one night, between intermissions, and heard them playing their last song of their set and this trumpet player stood up and took a solo. And I was knocked out. I said, "Damn, this cat is playing his ass off. Who is this cat?" I went over and introduced myself and we met. I got his phone number and everything and it was Tom. At that time, Randy Brecker was playing trumpet with the band and when Randy left, I said, "Well, I know who to get. Let me call and see if Tom is available." I called and I got Tom. I have had some great players in my band. I've been very fortunate. They are all good. I love them all. And they've all added to the Horace Silver sound and I thank them for it.
AAJ: If you were putting a band together of players, past or present, whom would you have filling the saxophone, trumpet, bass, and drum chairs?
HS: Good question, Fred. It would depend on what project I got going. It could be a big band project. It could be a small band. It could be a quartet, a quintet, a sextet, a septet. It could be a certain type of jazz. It could be all Latin music or it could be all blues. It could be an album of all ballads. I would have to find out what the project was first and then I would go zeroing in on what musicians I would use. I wouldn't just say I would use this guy or that guy or another because they may not fit that particular project. I look at my project. What am I doing here? Is this like the regular Horace Silver thing or is this an album of all ballads or is this going to be an album of all Latin music. Who's going to fit this music? I try to decipher that. I would hate to name names. I'm not going to name no names because there are too many good musicians out here. For example, the guys that are on my last record, Jazz Has a Sense of Humor. They're great and I am hoping to use them again because they sound so well together, Ryan Kisor, Jimmy Greene, John Webber, and Willie Jones. They are all good players, but the five of us seemed to gel well together. I am hoping to use them again on something else. But there are other players out there too. They're not the only ones, Fred.
AAJ: Are you and Elvin the last of the leaders mentoring young musicians?
HS: Well, I don't think it is dying per say, Fred. I think that, well, most of the heavyweights, the giants are dead. All these great, of course there are some people with us, of the older guys who are masters, like Milt Jackson or Ahmad Jamal or Cedar Walton and oh, I don't know, I'd hate to leave anybody out, but I mean some of the ones from the older generation who are really masters. There are so few of them left, especially those who would have a quintet or anything larger than a quintet. You've got some piano players. They can mentor a bassist and a drummer, but I mean, you don't have the Art Blakeys and the Jazz Messengers group anymore to bring young guys into the fold and train them to move on in their careers. You don't have Dizzy Gillespie. You don't have Cannonball anymore. You don't have those kinds of groups anymore so those guys can get that type of experience.
AAJ: Let's talk about your new album on Verve, Jazz Has a Sense of Humor, and does jazz really have a sense of humor?
HS: Definitely. I think all music should have a sense of humor at some point, not that every piece of music has to have humor, but, well, speaking for myself, I like the bulk of my music to have humor. There are times when I want to get very serious with my music. I might have a very serious song title for a tune and I might have a very serious lyric, which is very in depth and very profound and very serious, so therefore there is really not a sense of humor to that, but that is just a small portion of my music. I would say seventy-five to eighty percent of my music, I try to keep it on the light hearted side with some fun and laughter in it. It's uplifting and it's entertaining. I love all of those band members. They are great players, each and every one of them.
And if you look back at Horace Silver's career, you will find that a lot of my music has a sense of humor, tunes like "Juicy Lucy," They have humorous titles. They have humorous lyrics to them. I'm a lover of comedy. When I was a teenager, I used to play in a local club back in Norwalk, Connecticut, a local Black club on the weekend. They would always have a comedian on the floorshow. We would have to play for the floorshow, a striptease dancer, a singer, and a comedian. I used to listen to those jokes, a lot of them were dirty. I would go the next day on a Monday and I would tell them to my classmates. They would crack up. I love humor. I love Richard Pryor and Jack Benny, all of those great comedians. It's important, I think, just as important that the world have music to give us some happiness and joy, to uplift them. They need some comedy to uplift them too. I'm a great lover of comedians. I love, what's this guy's name? This Jewish comedian, Jackie Mason. He's funny. I've got a couple of videotapes of him. He's a really good comic.