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Horace Silver: Blue Note Records and His Lady Music

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EH: At the time you sat down to write the The United States of Mind, were you going into the philosophy of TM? Because I've kept up with most all your albums from that period I became aware of your music. I think that You Gotta Take A Little Love (Blue Note, 1969) seems to have been the initial album which may have catapulted you into that philosophy. That's when you started putting lyrics on the liners—onto the album covers—and your music changed just a wee bit—it differed from your previous work.

HS: That's a very good assumption because you're pretty close to right there. You know, I would say You Gotta Take A Little Love catapulted me into the The United States of Mind. I got interested in writing lyrics about that time and, well, became interested in Metaphysics and Indian philosophies, and Yoga philosophies. I have always been interested in health foods, vitamins; you know, the heath thing. So, I was trying to get the physical thing, the mental thing, and the spiritual thing altogether. I was doing a lot of reading, a lot of soul-searching, a lot of meditation; and I put it altogether and came up with the The United States of Mind, which deals with all of that which I just mentioned; dealing with the physical, the mental and the spiritual things.

EH: You sat down and started the The United States of Mind series and formed a new group. Why didn't you include name musicians? Prior to this album, you had been using musicians who had been around.

HS: You mean the The United States of Mind records?

EH: When I saw you in '69 you had...

HS: Randy Brecker on trumpet, Bennie Maupin on sax, John Williams on bass, and I think I had Billy Cobham on drums.

EH: Would you say that was the last time you used name musicians? Out here in L.A. you're using musicians I never heard of; and I'm sure they have experience behind them. People are used to seeing you with heavyweights like Stanley Turrentine or Joe Henderson.

HS: I never worked with Stanley Turrentine. He just made a record with me—he's never traveled with me—he's a leader in his own right. So I couldn't hire him. He's got his own band; he just made a record with me.

EH: Well, I mean you're using younger musicians who are kinda unknown.

HS: Everybody I've used was unknown at one time. Blue Mitchell was unknown when I first used him; so was Junior Cook; all of these guys; so was Benny Maupin when he first came with me; so was Randy Brecker. You know all these guys were unknown when they first joined me.

EH: OK. We hit on the same thing; you look like the way Blakey was doing with the Messengers—taking young guys in, working with them, and when they've built a repertoire and got a name, they went out on their own. That seems like what you're doing.

HS: Yeah. I like to give young musicians a chance, providing that they're capable. I don't hire anyone just because they are young. I prefer to get young cats if they are capable and can play the music to my satisfaction. Usually, young cats are very cooperative because they are trying to get across and they give you 100% cooperation, whereas sometimes older guys are more set in their ways and want to do things their way instead of trying to interpret the music the way you [the leader] want it.

Not necessarily all are like that; some of them are. I mean, we all gotta get a start someplace. Stan Getz gave me my first break. Art Blakey my second. You know those two cats really helped me to get on out here. I try to do the same thing for the two reasons I mentioned; for that reason, give guys a break and get them out here. And to also have somebody who can play and will take direction.

EH: A small bio...Where is Horace from? Many people don't know.

HS: I am from Norwalk, Connecticut.

EH: Was the 1950 gig with Stan Getz your first professional gig?

HS: Well, if you term first professional gig with a name musician. Well, I'd consider playing with professional musicians in Connecticut; but he was the first name professionally that I played with.

EH: 1974, what's happening with Horace Silver now? He's gone through The United States of Mind, phases one, two and three, and gone through many themes of music.

HS: The latest album since The United States of Mind series is an album called In Pursuit Of The 27th Man (Blue Note, 1970), with...

EH: "Liberated Brother."

HS: Correct. "Liberated Brother."

EH: What's in store for the next album?

HS: I don't give away my secrets before they come out.

EH: I think you gave away some of them tonight [at Concerts by the Sea], playing "Accept Responsibility." Some of the new things you played tonight, will they be on the album?

HS: They probably will.

EH: Hope to catch you next time. Missed you before at Redd Foxx in '70; glad you're back, not sick. And I hope the two week stint here at Concerts by the Sea will be very beautiful for you. I hope you can get some creative ideas while you are here in L.A..

HS: Well, the weather out here and the people are very conducive to creativity.

EH: Will you ever move out here?

HS: That's a possibility—who knows?

EH: Tell me one other thing. Will you stay with Blue Note?

HS: I stay where the music is. If it's out here, I have to go. Everyone goes to New York 'cause that's where the scene is; and wherever the scene moves to, that's where all the cats have to go—if they want to be on the scene.

EH: Would you say the East Coast is more conducive to black musicians starting out than the West Coast? [West Coast Cool was mostly white musicians—Buddy Collette, Teddy Edwards, Howard McGhee, and Gerald Wilson were among the few blacks on the West Coast]. Or, which area would you say is more conducive for a black musician to get started?

HS: I don't think black has anything to do with it. You can start off anywhere. Some of the baddest cats came from some small towns. New York is a proving ground for many musicians, black, white, yellow, and I would say all the major cities—L.A., 'Frisco, Chicago, New York. But, I would say New York is a strong proving ground because there is a lot of competition there, and a lot of music is going on there. You can get out and hear a lot of music, which is inspirational. Like you go out and hear somebody cook, it makes you want to go home and be proactive—go home and try to play better inspires you to further yourself.
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