Guitarist Kevin Van Sant and bassist Ben Palmer come together on The Music of Horace Silver to deliver a soulful and meaningful tribute to the music of one of the greatest composers and pianists in jazz. It's apparent that both musicians hold Silver's music in the highest regard and this reverence is brought to light on each of the album's eleven tracks. The tunes selected come from a wide range of Silver's catalogue of recorded works. Favorites like "Strollin,'" "Peace" and "Lonely Woman" are mixed together with lesser known Silver tunes such as "Calcutta Cutie" and "Enchantment" to produce a well thought-out playlist reflective of the composer's long and prosperous career.
Van Sant and Palmer are two of North Carolina's top jazz musicians and their extensive experience as performers can be felt on every tune. Beyond the fact that both musicians are fine improvisers, their ability to communicate and play off of each other provides many interesting moments. The duo's interaction is never more apparent than on Silver's classic blues, "Soulville," where Palmer does an excellent job of grooving on a half-time feel during the head and first half of Van Sant's solo. Van Sant takes the opportunity to lay down some very tasty blues inspired licks that build into a chord solo reminiscent of mid-'60s George Benson. As Van Sant is building his solo Palmer is right there with him. Palmer transitions seamlessly from half-time to walking at just the right moment, which inspires Van Sant to dig deeper before the bassist produces his own very well-played solo.
While many tribute albums are carbon copies of the original tunes recorded by new musicians, Van Sant and Palmer stand out in their ability to bring new insight into these often played songs. While respectful of the original intent of the composer, neither are they afraid to take chances in order to make these tunes their own, such as the bossa rendition of "Silver's Serenade" or Van Sant's creative interpretation of the classic melody line to "Peace." It is moments like this that make the album stand on its own, and avoid becoming a replica rather than a homage.
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