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Let's Get to the Nitty Gritty: The Autobiography of Horace Silver

Ken Dryden By

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Let's Get to the Nitty Gritty: The Autobiography of Horace Silver
Horace Silver
Hardcover; 282 pages
ISBN: 0520243749
University of California Press
2006

Horace Silver's life story is very entertaining. The pianist and composer, who has pretty much retired from performing due to back problems, pulls few punches in discussing his life, illustrating it with numerous humorous or poignant anecdotes, from his days growing up in Connecticut to hitting the big time in New York City, working with Art Blakey and splitting off to lead his own quintet.

Like Duke Ellington in Music is My Mistress, Silver seems reluctant to say negative things about most people, excepting Blakey's failure to pay him and sideman Tyrone Washington's on-stage insubordination. But readers will find details about Art Farmer, Junior Cook, Hank Mobley, Joe Henderson and other important musicians in Silver's quintets to be a little thin.

My impression is that Silver recorded his thoughts on tape and Phil Pastras transcribed and edited them. This would explain misspellings of Michel Camilo, Major Holley, Zoot Sims, Jon Burr and producer Charlie Lourie, plus the odd description of musicians who supposedly worked with Silver's quintet "in the first couple of years but never recorded with me , which includes a number of players who were far too young to have played in his group in the mid-to-late '50s.

A detailed discography is an added bonus, including unreleased sessions and at least one radio broadcast that circulates among collectors. Horace Silver comes across as a very spiritual, sincere man, it's just that his autobiography merited a little more detail and polish to do justice to his impressive and interesting career.

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