Horace Silver Live At Newport '58 Blue Note
For a jazz artist of such longevity, pianist Horace Silver has precious few live recordings as leader. Before Paris Blues: Olympia Theater, Paris, 1962 (Fantasy, 2003) was released, Silver's single live recording was Doin' The Thing At The Village Gate (Blue Note, 2006/1961). This fact makes any newly discovered and released live recording somewhat of an event. Enter Horace Silver Live At Newport '58.
Horace Silver Live At Newport '58 aurally details July 6, 1958 at the Newport Jazz Festival. The Horace Silver Quintet closed that Sunday afternoon's performances with a 40-minute set drawn from music Silver was composing and recording during at the time. The performance falls between Silver's recording of Further Explorations (Blue Note, 1958) and Finger Poppin' (Blue Note, 1959) and includes "The Outlaw" from that session and "Tippin'," recorded on June 15, 1958 for the b-side of the vocal version of "Senor Blues" (Bill Henderson, vocals).
This performance is notable for the presence of trumpeter Louis Smith, who served as a bridge between Donald Byrd and Blue Mitchell. This represents the only full performance by Smith as part of Silver's quintet and one of the only times that "Tippin'" was recorded live by its original quintet. To be sure, Smith is neither Byrd nor Mitchell. He is a lightning bolt briefly illuminating the jazz sky with force and brilliance. This earliest example of live Silver shows the leader fully formed as a stage personality. If Horace Silver can be described as anything, it would be as his music is described: "funky cool."
Horace Silver is part of the hard bop trinity, along with trumpeter Miles Davis and drummer Art Blakey. This trio ushered in a more accessible form of be-bop, making it acceptable to a wider audience by their infusion of blues and gospel elements. Hard bop was the first jazz genre to tax the confines of description. It is a more subtle artifact of jazz evolution than the earthquake which produced be-bop, which was a major mutation of jazz genes. Hard bop is extroverted where be-bop is introverted. It is muscular and brash, loose and sensual or frankly sexual music, particularly in the blues.
The Newport performance is book ended with two classic be-bop constructions shot through with hard bop swagger. "Tippin'" is a classic AABA composition after Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm." It sports a complicated head and assertive soloing, and it swings with a jackhammer momentum, driven by the muscular drumming of Louis Hayes, who prefaces Tony Williams a decade later. "Cool Eyes" is similarly constructed with a devilishly complex Horace Silver head. Both pieces illustrate how hard bop was born out of be-bop.
Those pieces performed between are the heart of hard bop, compositions that adopt challenging structures and time signatures. "The Outlaw"is pure genius, carefully constructed to convey the maximum drama. It stirs blues, Tin Pan Alley, church, and disorder at the border into a potent cocktail intended to weaken one's knees after the first shot. That soloists can spin their respective wares over these challenges is a credit to their musicianship. "Senor Blues" needs little introduction. It is the minor key blues of "Birk's Works" introduced to "My Little Red Shoes" with plutonium added for a slow burn. "Senor Blues" showcases its composer, allowing him to demonstrate the universe of his composing and pianist talents. If the late 1950s has a soundtrack, it would be "Senor Blues."
Horace Silver Live At Newport '58 joins three other recent releasesfrom trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie/saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianist Thelonious Monk and saxophonist John Coltraneas one of the most significant new finds in jazz. It appropriately casts Horace Silver as a significant jazz composer and reminds the modern listener that there are still giants among us, no matter how briefly.
Tracks: Introduction; Tippin'; The Outlaw; Senor Blues; Cool Eyes.
Personnel: Louis Smith; trumpet; Junior Cook: tenor Saxophone; Horace silver: piano; Gene Taylor: bass; Louis Hayes: drums.