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THE soulful gentleman with the straw hat and cigar on the cover of this album is John Tavares Silver, to whom the title tune was bilingually dedicated (in English and Portuguese). “My mother was of Irish and Negro descent, my father of Portuguese origin,” says Horace. “He was born on the island of Maio, one of the Cape Verde Islands, but he came to this country when he was a young man.” Song For My Father involves the conjunction of two eras, in more than one sense. In addition to bringing together two Silver family generations, it presents for the first time on records a new genealogical chapter in the lineage of the Horace Silver Quintet. It was almost exactly a decade ago, toward the end of 1954, that Horace, then leading a quartet at Minton’s Playhouse with Hank Mobley on tenor and the late Doug Watkins on bass, joined forces with Art Blakey and Kenny Dorham for an LP by “Horace Silver and The Jazz Messengers.” (Blue Note 1518.) This highly successful initial venture produced two Silver compositions that have become firm jazz standards, The Preacher and Doodlin’. For a year or two Horace remained, except on occasional records, a side-

man working for Blakey. Then came the moment of decision: in September 1956 he formed his own group, with Mobley, Donald Byrd, Watkins and Louis Hayes. There was one major reshuffling in 1958, but generally the five pieces of Silver have remained unusually stable. While other combos changed their size and shape and policy, the Horace Silver Quintet went straight ahead, recording hit after hit, from Juicy Lucy and Sister Sadie to Filthy McNasty and The Tokyo Blues. Not until 1964 did Horace decide on another revamping. “I feel we’re getting an invigorating freshness with the new group,” he says, “and we’re working well toward the oneness that comes after being together a while.” For Carmell Jones, the job with Horace is a major step toward national recognition. Born in 1937 in Kansas City, Kansas, Carmell at 19 left for a two year hitch in the Army. He spent two years at the University of Kansas and took part, in 1960, in the annual collegiate jazz festival at Notre Dame. A few months later he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked with Bud Shank, Harold Land, Curtis Amy, Gerald Wilson and Shelly Manne. Though Miles Davis and Chet Baker were early favorites, clearly Carmell’s later discov-

ery of some Clifford Brown records made a lasting impression. Joe Henderson, though new to the Silver personnel, is of course familiar to Blue Noters, both as leader and sideman. Born April 24, 1937 in Lima, Ohio, he worked with various groups in Detroit, went around the world with an Army band during two years in the service, and arrived in New York in 1962. The new rhythm men are less familiar. “Roger Humphries is one of the most promising drummers I’ve heard in a long time,” says Horace. “He’s only 20 years old, comes from Pittsburgh, and this is his second professional job. He was just out of high school when he joined Shirley Scott and Stanley Turrentine. Teddy Smith is a little older, in his early thirties. He comes from Washington and worked with Slide Hampton’s band and a lot of combos around Washington, D.C. He’s a fine timekeeper with a good sound. I’m real happy with the rhythm section.” Of the title number, Horace says: “This tune is an original of mine, but it has a flavor to it that makes me think of my childhood days. Some of the family, including my father and my uncle, used to have musical parties with three or four stringed instruments; my father played











*BLUE MITCHELL, trumpet; JUNIOR COOK, tenor sax; HORACE SILVER, piano; TEDDY SMITH, bass; ROY COOK, drums. violin and guitar. Those were happy, informal sessions. “Then of course last February I was in Brazil and I was very much impressed by the authentic bossa nova beat. Not just the monotonous tick-tick-tick, tick-tick, the way it’s usually done, but the real bossa nova feeling, which I’ve tried to incorporate into this number.” The theme has an even, placid quality. It is in F Minor and its mood is plaintive rather than mournful. Horace’s piano solo is restrained, with a touch of the blues in the chordal work, and Joe’s solo swings effortlessly. The Natives Are Restless Tonight, a bright minor blues, offers a kicking demonstration of Carmell’s fluidity, poise and drive. Note, too, how carefully Roger Humphries seems to be listening to what Carmell is saying. Joe Henderson’s solo is notable for its fine time, an element particularly important at this tempo. Horace’s comping, that very personal comping that has always been a central part of the group’s value, lends greatly to the tension and excitement. Smith and Humphries both have solo statements before the theme returns. Calcutta Cutie was recorded with the earlier personnel, but the horns are heard only in brief ensemble work. “I

wanted this to have that Indian flavor, like in The Baghdad Blues. My own solo, using those minor thirds with the seconds on the bottom, reminds me a little of someone strumming away on a guitar.” Notice Roy Brooks’ use of finger cymbal effects, and Horace’s alternation of a sort of misterioso style (using broken open fifths, if you want to be technical) with a fleet- single-notes linearity. This splendid composition holds the attention all the way to the concluding lonelysounding double-stop by Gene Taylor. Que Pasa, or What’s Happening? is a brooding theme expressed by the twohorn voicing of the ensemble. “The bass,” Horace points out, “plays just D Flat and A Flat all the way, but the chords move from D Flat Minor through G 7, F 7 and D 7 back to the D Flat Minor.” Horace’s solo and Joe’s have much in common here, for both range from a gentle reserve to unpredictably aggressive moments. Humphries underlines these contrasts most effectively. The Kicker, an up-tempo line by Joe Henderson, is the only non-Silver composition in this album. The kicker in question is a jagged series of short phrases used to kick off the first two choruses in each of the solos. Composer Henderson himself, an increasingly

impressive soloist, kicks most effectively in his own blowing contribution. Carmell’s phrasing and continuity are exceptional; in this solo alone there are perhaps half a dozen phrases any one of which could be used as the basis for a formal melody. This is as it should be, since all improvisation is, or should be, basically a form of composition. Lonely Woman, played as a solo with bass and drums, was written some years ago before Horace knew there was any other composition with the same name. (Benny Carter wrote a lovely tune by this title in 1937.) I have replayed this track often and find it more endearing each time. It is lyrical in the musical sense, and also in the sense that you can easily imagine lyrics fitted to its sinuous lines. (The fifth and sixth measures seem to cry I’m such a lonely woman ...) I do not know John Tavares Silver, but hope we will meet. It would be a pleasure to know the man to whom this album is dedicated. He must be a proud man — not merely proud of the dedication, but of a gifted son who is respected by thousands of friends and admirers all over the world. —LEONARD FEATHER original liner notes P 2012 Blue Note Records. Blue Note® is a registered trademark of Capitol Records, LLC. g 2012 Blue Note Records. All Rights Reserved.

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One of the most indelible tunes in the jazz canon, Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father,” recorded in 1964 for the album that bears the same name, could have become an AM Top 40 radio hit had the powers to be back then bothered to delve deeper beyond the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Motown to find rich sources of beguiling song. In fact, a decade later, the pop group Steely Dan lifted the catchy bass lines from “Song for My Father” for

its own song “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” (from its 1974 album Pretzel Logic), which reached the upper echelon of the pop singles chart—testament to Silver’s brilliance as a songwriter whose appealing tunes over the course of his career have been fully recognized as lyrical, whimsical gems. While the pianist and bandleader recorded exclusively for Blue Note Records beginning in 1956 after he left the Jazz Messengers (the semi-

nal band he co-founded with drummer Art Blakey) until 1979 during the dark days at the label, Song for My Father stands as the milestone of his oeuvre not only for its snappy songs (most originals, no songbook standards) but also for its top-tier ensemble interplay. Silver’s pianism is unmistakable in its percussive bounce, with his light pounce on the keys fashioning chords that contribute to the hard bop rhythm. While he’s not a flashy virtuoso of the instrument, he’s a charismatic craftsman whose mesmerizing songs afford his band mates ample room to improvise with brio. Ironically, Silver’s most celebrated and popular album was released originally on LP with the six songs recorded by two different ensembles. Silver’s old band contributes two numbers while the bulk of the album introduces his brand-new quintet. The sessions for Song for My Father were recorded a year apart, from October 1963 to October 1964. In place of his veteran group that had been together for five years

SONG FOR MY FATHER (trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor and drummer Roy Brooks), Silver enlisted a crew of young musicians including trumpeter Carmell Jones, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, bassist Teddy Smith and drummer Roger Humphries. The longtime band appears on a trio rendering of Silver’s hushed ballad “Lonely Woman,” which the pianist delivers in a gorgeous melancholic mood, and the tempo-shifting “Calcutta Cutie,” where the quintet starts slowly then zips into a swing, highlighted by the leader’s tinkling piano breaks that he said were reminiscent of a guitar being strummed. After the leadoff title track, Silver and his new outfit turn up the heat with “The Natives Are Restless Tonight” that features Jones and Henderson taking the melodic head before the solos open up. Henderson is a revelation, with his ecstatic tenor flight while Silver jumps into the fray that is driven by Humphries’s skittering, spanking, tumbling drum runs. “Que Pasa” also features Henderson and Silver taking buzzing solos that begin

with calm before brewing into a roil. Henderson’s composition, “The Kicker,” literally kicks with energy and velocity, as both Jones and the tenor saxist blow with fire and Silver takes the rollicking route. While Song for My Father as a whole perfectly captured the Silver aura of his Blue Note days, the title melody made jazz history. With

Silver’s bluesy, swinging piano flavored both by the Cape Verdean folk music of his father and Brazilian bossa nova, “Song for My Father” proved to be both an enthralling dance for the day and a timeless piece of music. —Dan Ouellette

Horace Silver - Song For My Father_Booklet  

A visit to Brazil prompted Horace Silver's interest in his Portuguese roots and led to the magnificent "Song For My Father," his most enduri...

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