Horace SilverHorace Silver, (September 2, 1928–June 18, 2014), jazz pianist and composer.

Horace Silver was one of jazz’s greatest composers and a pioneer of hard bop and soul jazz. He grew up in Connecticut. His father was a native of Cape Verde, while his mother sang in a gospel choir at church. The musical influences from his parents became a key component to his style as a composer and performer. Silver initially played the tenor saxophone, but later switched to piano and made his recording debut with saxophonist Stan Getz.

After moving to New York, he signed with Blue Note records and performed at the Birdland jazz club. He founded and co-led the Jazz Messengers with drummer Art Blakey in the early 1950’s and was also was a member of the Miles Davis All-Stars during this time, recording the classic album Walkin’.

After leaving the Jazz Messengers in 1956, Silver formed his own group. His piano playing and compositions included gospel and funk aspects, which led to the formation of the hard bop style, in contrast to the West Coast cool jazz becoming popular through Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan. He was also a pioneer in introducing World Music into jazz through tributes to the folk music he learned from his father in albums such as the Cape Verdean Blues and Song To My Father, whose title track became a huge hit. (It’s simple intro vamp was later used by Steely Dan for their hit “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”.)

Other important pieces that have become standards include Sister Sadie, Nuttville, Peace, Nica’s Dream, The Preacher, and Gregory Is Here, (written in honor of his son). His later albums often included vocals and reflected the challenging social issues of the time. Silver was also important for spotting and nurturing upcoming players. Some of the more important musicians to come through his groups include Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Junior Cook, Hank Mobley, Blue Mitchell, Joe Henderson, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Donald Byrd, Woody Shaw, Benny Maupin, Andy Bey, Randy and Michael Brecker, Billy Cobham, Tom Harrell, and Dave Douglas.

Silver published his autobiography, Let’s Get To The Nitty Gritty, in 2007. In addition, he was honored as an NEA Jazz Master and given the President’s Merit Award by the Grammy Award’s Recording Academy (NARAS). He died of natural causes at the age of 85 and is survived by his son, Gregory.

“One of the most influential musicians in the history of jazz.”

– BBC News

Visit the official Horace Silver website here.

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