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HORACE SILVER

Four Classic Albums: Second Set

AVID AMSC1287 [68:30 + 79:38]

 

 

CD1

New Faces New Sounds

Horace Silver (piano): Curley Russell (bass): Gene Ramey (bass): Art Blakey (drums) recorded October 1952

Safari

Ecaroh

Prelude To A Kiss

Thou Swell

Quicksilver

Horoscope

Yeah

Knowledge

Horace Silver and The Jazz Messengers

Horace Silver (piano): Kenny Dorham (trumpet): Hank Mobley (tenor sax): Doug Watkins (bass): Art Blakey (drums) recorded November 1954 and February 1955

Room 608

Creepin' In

Stop Time

To Whom It May Concern

Hippy

The Preacher

Hankerin'

Doodlin'

CD2

Horace-Scope

Horace Silver (piano): Blue Mitchell (trumpet): Junior Cook (tenor sax): Gene Taylor (bass): Roy Brooks (drums) recorded July 1960

Strollin'

Where You At

Without You

Horace-Scope

Yeah!

Me And My Baby

Nica's Dream

The Tokyo Blues

Horace Silver (piano): Blue Mitchell (trumpet): Junior Cook (tenor sax): Gene Taylor (bass): John Harris Jr (drums) recorded July 1962

Too Much Sake

Sayonara Blues

The Tokyo Blues

Cherry Blossom

Ah So

This is Avid’s second twofer devoted to Horace Silver and it charts a decade’s worth of productivity from 1952 to 1962. The earliest sides were recorded in the WOR Studios in New York, the remaining ones by Rudy Van Gelder. All sound good in these transfers from the LPs. It’s doubtless a commonplace of Silver Studies but the level of achievement remains consistently high throughout the course of his discography. There’s hardly any falling off from the high standards enshrined in these early albums whether with his trio, in New Faces, New Sounds, or with a two-man front line in the remaining three LPs.

The first album serves up eight tracks, three quarters of them Silver originals, with Art Blakey in place and either Curly Russell or Gene Ramey on bass, as the sessions took place over two dates in October 1952. These taut, crisp readings are full of fine detail and naughty quotations, such as the It Don’t Mean a Thing business in Safari and the constructive dissonance imbedded in Silver’s Ecaroh (read the title backwards). Silver turns the already romantic tracery of Ellington’s Prelude to a Kiss into an even more intense reverie but is bluffly crisp in Thou Swell. His composition Horoscope was one that recurred later, as he sought to improve on it, drawing out even more freighted harmonies – listen to Horace-Scope on the second CD, which revisits the piece with a vengeance.

Teaming up with the Jazz Messengers – Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Doug Watkins, Blakey - produced an eight-track album stuffed with classics and apostrophes. All bar Mobley’s Hankerin’ (a very Silver-like title) came from the pen of the pianist. There’s the loping feel of Creepin’ In and the punchy trades on Stop Time to savour as well as the elegance of Silver’s superb To Whom It May Concern. As if this weren’t enough this album houses the classic The Preacher and that roots-drenched masterpiece Doodlin’. The second disc sees a change of personnel; the front line is now Blue Mitchell and Junior Cook. Cook’s lyrical tenor playing is roughed by the occasional strategic honk on Strollin’, Without You is one of those gorgeous ballad performances that sound just right, in terms both of tempo and mood, and there’s a finger-clicker in the shape of Me and My Baby, a downhome rootsville number with Gene Taylor’s resonant bass work to the fore. Nica’s Dream is a kind of Down by the Riverside but transformed into a time-travelling opus by virtue of Silver’s stylistic upgrade.

The Tokyo Blues followed in 1962. With the exception of John Harris Jr taking over the drum chair from Roy Brooks, the band remained as it had for Horace-Scope and the album allowed rather more space to stretch out. Sayonara Blues runs twelve minutes, for instance (during which Silver naughtily quotes Spencer Williams’ old-timeI’ve Found a New Baby) and by comparison nothing in the New Faces LP breaches the four-minute mark. There’s some Japanoisserie in the title track and Cherry Blossom offers the date’s ballad. Cook sounds fresh as a daisy, the unisons are tight and tasty, and Blue Mitchell is fluency itself.

As usual the original liner notes are reprinted – the authors are Leonard Feather, Ira Gitler, Barbara J Gardner and Atsuhiko Kawabata. Personnel details are clear, reproduction fine. Nothing not to like about this life-enhancing twofer.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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