16

Horace Silver: The Hard Bop Grandpop

Marc Davis By

Sign in to view read count
With musicians, and artists generally, there's a tendency to think the best work is the earliest.

It's usually true. Paul McCartney was never better than when he recorded with the Beatles. Chuck Berry's best work was the early hits like "Johnny B. Goode" and "Roll Over Beethoven." Tom Wolfe hasn't written anything as good as "The Right Stuff" and "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test."

So it is, too, with jazz musicians. Dizzy Gillespie's seminal work came in the 1940s and the birth of bebop. Chick Corea, while still solid and dependable, did his best work with Return to Forever.

There are exceptions, of course. Miles Davis constantly reinvented himself over a long period of years. Duke Ellington was a terrific composer and leader until the day he died.

And so, consider Horace Silver.

Early in my jazz education, I found a 2-CD set called A Night at Birdland. It was recorded in 1954 by a fabulous quintet led by Art Blakey. Horace Silver was the pianist, only 26 years old, and he wasn't even the best musician in the group, or even second-best, and maybe not even third-best. There was Blakey on drums, the sensational Clifford Brown on trumpet, and the underrated Lou Donaldson on sax.

This is the very definition of hard bop. It's a 5-star ensemble playing at the peak of its power. Every song is masterful. The ballads are tender and poignant. The bop is breakneck and invigorating. Every one of the musicians is at the top of his game. It's likely Blakely never recorded a better live set—and that's saying something. It's not a Horace Silver record, per se. Silver was still young and on the cusp of fame. But he's brilliant. If you buy just one Horace Silver CD, this would be my pick.

Fast forward 42 years to 1996.

Horace Silver was 68 and past his prime. A critic tagged him "the hard bop grandpop." Silver liked the name so much, he used it as an album title. Following Blakey's lead, he surrounded himself with younger musicians, notably four horn players, including Michael Brecker. And he wrote ten new songs.

I won't pretend that The Hard bop Grandpop was the Jazz Messengers reincarnated. But it's very good. It's probably better than a 68-year-old has any right sounding. The mood is different. It's not hard bop exactly, despite the title. There's more soul. The brass really takes the forefront. Silver takes his solos, and they are very good, but he mostly lets the younger guys shine. (Though Silver wrote corny lyrics for half of the songs, he wisely decided against using a singer. The CD is entirely instrumental, though he included the lyrics in the liner notes, for anyone who wants to follow along.) It includes tributes to Coleman Hawkins and Dexter Gordon and even a tune based on a teapot whistle. All of it is wonderful and lyrical and soulful.

No, it's not vintage Silver. It's not as good as the Blakey/Jazz Messenger stuff. So maybe it's only 4-star CD. With legends in late-career, you adjust your palette. This is enjoyable music. It's not fair to compare Paul McCartney in 2007 to Paul McCartney in 1968. It's the same in jazz. Even so, sometimes a lion in winter is still a majestic thing.

Track Listing: I Want You; The Hippest Cat in Hollywood; Gratitude; Hawkin'; I Got the Blues in Santa Cruz; We've Got Silver at Six; The Hard Bop Grandpop; The Lady from Johannesburg; Serenade to a Teakettle; Diggin' on Dexter

Personnel: Horace Silver, piano; Claudio Roditi, trumpet; Michael Brecker, tenor sax; Steve Turre, trombone; Ronnie Cuber, baritone sax; Ron Carter, bass; Lewis Nash, drums

Title: The Hard Bop Grandpop | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: GRP Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read A Night Walking Through Mirrors CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Barry Witherden
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jondo CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jazz Flute Traditions CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Flute Traditions
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Nerve Dance CD/LP/Track Review Nerve Dance
by John Sharpe
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Déjà Vu CD/LP/Track Review Déjà Vu
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 20, 2017
Read Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts CD/LP/Track Review Woody Guthrie - The Tribute Concerts
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 20, 2017
Read "Is It Me...?" CD/LP/Track Review Is It Me...?
by Edward Blanco
Published: April 25, 2017
Read "Message In Motion" CD/LP/Track Review Message In Motion
by David A. Orthmann
Published: October 27, 2016
Read "Copenhagen Live 1964" CD/LP/Track Review Copenhagen Live 1964
by Mark Corroto
Published: May 30, 2017
Read "Of the Tree" CD/LP/Track Review Of the Tree
by Dave Wayne
Published: October 9, 2016
Read "Alma Matters" CD/LP/Track Review Alma Matters
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 10, 2017
Read "The Elements" CD/LP/Track Review The Elements
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: August 25, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.