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Interviews

My Conversation with Horace Silver

By Published: December 18, 2003
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.



AAJ: Is laughter the best medicine?

HS: Laughter and music, both of them. They go hand in hand. They're both light hearted and they both can help you forget some of your problems sometimes, until you can find a solution to them. In the mean time, it can take some of the pressure off your butt.



AAJ: At this stage of your career, what is more important to you, your artistry as a pianist or your artistry as a composer/arranger?

HS: Well, both, I like both. If someone was to come to me and put a gun to my head and say, "Look, you've got to make a choice. Either you are going to go on with the piano or you are going to go on with the composing, because you can't do both." I would have to say composing, because there is no end of joy, well, I get joy out of playing the piano and playing for a live audience and getting their reaction, but there is nothing like the thrill that you get with it when you write a song. It's like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. There's nothing there. All of the sudden, you get one little gem of an idea and you keep working on it. You develop it and it develops into a beautiful melody, a beautiful harmony, a beautiful rhythm. And then you arrange it and you rehearse it and you record it. Boy, that is a thrill, Fred.



AAJ: Where do you see the future of this music?

HS: I see all of these elements will come into play in the future. I think if you look at music from way back, different elements kind of come together. It's like, well, for example, I don't know if it's a good analogy or not, but yesterday I went out and bought some vegetables. I bought something called broco-cauliflower. It's a hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower. It looks like a cauliflower, but it's green like broccoli. I think that's the way with music. All these different elements mix with each other and you get a hybrid. Eventually, somewhere down the line, it's going to be a hybrid of music with all these different influences coming together. Does that make sense, Fred? I hope.



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