Jazz Birthday: Horace Silver (1928)

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Jazz, like any music, seems to have nothing to do with politics (not counting lyrics). There is no First Amendment for jazz expression. Jazz communication comes naturally and is accepted as natural. Jazz has rules, and they change. No one enforces them. An artist chooses the sounds he wants and the other artists that are his influences. He’s not made to follow a curriculum, unless he voluntarily enrolls. Jazz is an example of the spontaneous order. It has a musical language that communicates nonverbally, and that language has evolved without central direction. Jazz as non-politics sheds some light on politics as politics.

Horace Silver, pianist and composer, has had a major impact on modern jazz. When Silver was coming up, Bird and Diz style bebop dominated jazz, in the same way that Louis Armstrong’s style heavily influenced trumpet playing until innovators in the 1930s found their own voices, while retaining Armstrong’s basic innovations. Between 1952 and 1956, Silver and Art Blakey broke away from the Parker and Gillespie sounds. They innovated by creating new melodic and rhythmic lines and by creating arrangements with captivating sounds and tempos. This new music that had complex new lines became hard bop. (The term“hard” is a label for a different kind of sound, but it’s not descriptive of the music.) Into his own music, Silver also subtly infused elements of rhythm and blues (r & b) and gospel, and that influenced other artists within hard bop. The overall result of the musical ferment was to free up jazz from the constraints of bebop sounds while still retaining its innovations. The jazz language expanded. Silver’s catchy compositions became jazz standards. Example: He wrote Nica’s Dream in 1956, and the band I played in “lifted” it in 1961. That tune still sticks in my head. Silver as a pianist displayed variety, ranging from funky to Latin influences to sophisticated harmonics. His quintet plays Senor Blues below. It’s his composition and, as he says, it’s a minor blues in 6/8 time, not the usual 4/4 time.

5:54 am on September 2, 2012