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Horace Silver: Horace Silver: Six Pieces of Silver – Blue Note 1539

Marc Davis By

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Enter the album name hereYep, this is the "Senor Blues" album. That's not the name, obviously, but it could be.

This outstanding hard bop CD, recorded by Horace Silver's quintet in 1956, has 10 tracks, and three of them are "Senor Blues." No wonder. It's arguably the best track in the collection—a Spanish-tinged slow blues toe-tapper. Even so, three versions may be one too many.

First, there's the album version. It's a 7-minute original by Silver himself. It's a groovy piece with a catchy hook, featuring nice bluesy solos by Donald Byrd on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor sax and Silver on piano.

Second, there's the 45 version, which is 30 seconds shorter, but otherwise so substantially the same that I couldn't tell the difference until I listened to both versions several times. Yes, different solos, but not hugely different—not enough, really, to justify including both versions, except maybe for completists.

Finally, there's a vocal version—and it's slower and cooler. Bill Henderson sings lyrics penned by Silver himself, in which we learn that Senor Blues is a lady's man who lives "way down Mexicali way." We learn he is "tall and good-looking, and he always knows just what to say," but just when a senorita falls in love with him, she finds "Senor Blues done gone away." This could be the theme song for The Most Interesting Man in the World—or at least the coolest cat of 1958. (It was recorded two years after the original album tracks.)

The rest of the album runs hot and cold, literally. Some smokin' hard bop originals featuring the horns and piano (notably "Cool Eyes," "Virgo" and "Tippin," in which Junior Cook replaces Mobley on tenor) are mixed in with two so-so ballads by the piano-bass-drum trio ("Shirl" and "For Heaven's Sake"). Overall, a pretty good record with one really outstanding song that is done, essentially, two ways.

(What's up with the CD title? You'd think the original LP had six songs, based on the title, but no, it's seven. Weird. And the CD release has 10 tracks. Granted, the original LP had six tunes written by Silver, but still...)

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Availability: Easy to get

Cost: $1 used—can't beat that

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