Horace Silver Biography

Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva, 2 September 1928, Norwalk, Connecticut, USA. Silver studied piano and tenor saxophone at school, settling on the former instrument for his professional career. Early influences included Portuguese folk music (from his father), blues and bop. He formed a trio for local gigs which included backing visiting musicians. One such visitor, Stan Getz, was sufficiently impressed to take the trio on the road with him in 1950. The following year Silver settled in New York, playing regularly at Birdland and other leading venues. In 1952, he began a long-lasting association with Blue Note Records, recording under his own name and with other leaders. In 1953, he formed a band named the Jazz Messengers with Art Blakey, who later adopted the name for all his own groups. By 1956 Silver was leading his own quintet, exploring the reaches of bop and becoming a founding father of the hard bop movement. Silver’s line-up - trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums - was subject to many changes over the years, but the calibre of musicians he hired was always very high. Among his sidemen were Donald Byrd, Art Farmer, Michael and Randy Brecker, Woody Shaw, Blue Mitchell, Hank Mobley and Joe Henderson. He continued to lead fine bands, touring and recording extensively during the following decades, and in the late 80s and early 90s could still be heard at concerts around the world performing to an impressively high standard. As a pianist Silver is a powerful, thrusting player with an urgent rhythmic pulse.

As a composer, his early musical interests have constantly reappeared in his work and his incorporation into hard bop of elements of gospel and R&B have ensured that for all the overall complexities of sound his music remains highly accessible. Several of his pieces have become modern standards, among them ‘Opus de Funk’, ‘Doodlin’’, ‘Nica’s Dream’ and ‘The Preacher’. The introduction on Steely Dan’s ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’ was strongly influenced by Silver’s memorable ‘Song For My Father’. During the 70s Silver experimented with compositions and recordings that set his piano-playing and the standard quintet against larger orchestral backing, often achieving far more success than others who have written and performed in this way.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.