23 June 2014

Improv Column: Terry Seabrook’s Jazz Tip of the Month No. 11

Terry Seabrook’s Jazz Tip No. 11

Horace Silver – Perseverance & Endurance


    Horace Silver, who died this week, was one of the greatest jazz pioneers. He was an original pianist, a great composer and arranger and a significantly important band leader, introducing many new young players into the jazz limelight.

    I saw and heard Horace at Ronnie Scott’s in the seventies and he made an enduring impression on me. He looked and sounded like someone who was absolutely inside the music and the performance. Every note counted, he seemed to be working 1000%, and he exuded a wonderfully positive spirit.

    It was a quintet and the frontline was Bob Berg (tenor sax) and Tom Harrell (trumpet and flugelhorn) – 2 tremendous players. Those were the days when students could spend six hours at Ronnie Scott’s for £3 with three sets of the main band and three sets of the support band, plus Ronnie Scott and his famous jokes.

    Horace’s tunes are so good and numerous that they are worthy of a jazz course in composition all on their own. When he wrote he made extended arrangements with intros, interludes, backing riffs, rhythm section figures and codas. For example Nica’s Dream, Sister Sadie, Blowing the Blues Away.

    He virtually created the hard bop style which is a development of bebop with a stronger fusion of gospel and blues and also what later came to be described as funk. He was often very simple and economical in his ideas but this made his playing so much stronger and appealing. His comping was very strong and rhythmic, sometimes quite full and busy but always supporting the soloist.

    As a bandleader he started the Jazz Messengers and then left Art Blakey to run it for many more years so that he could lead his own quintets and ensembles as sole bandleader.

    When I saw him at Ronnie’s it was at the time of The Tranquiliser Suite from the Silver ’n Wood album and I went home and transcribed one of the songs – Perseverance and Endurance which you can try here. It is a simple modally-bluesy piece and good to try if you want to have a go at something in 7/4 which is not complex in other respects. Check it out on Spotify. 

    Horace lived to a good age (85) and left us with much to love, so here’s to the great inspirer who persevered and endured. Thank you Horace.


Terry Seabrook

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