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My Conversation with Horace Silver

By Published: December 18, 2003
AAJ: Why is it your music lends itself better to a quintet format rather than the conventional piano trio that your peers utilized?

HS: I like to hear my music played with something larger than just a trio. There's nothing wrong with playing with a trio either. It's OK, but I've always liked to hear my music played with some horns and sometimes a larger instrumentation than the quintet. We've done "Silver 'n Brass." We've done "Silver 'n Woodwinds." We've done "Silver and Voices," "Silver 'n Percussion," "Silver 'n Strings." We've done septets, sextets, octets. I try to stretch out and do something a little bit more different than just a quintet, but the quintet is my mainstay. The quintet is what the people love me for. They love Horace Silver in a quintet. I love the quintet setting. It's just that every now and then I just need something different.

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.

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