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Horace Silver Biography

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Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva (b. September 2, 1928, Norwalk, Connecticut) is a famous jazz pianist and composer born to a Cape Verdean father (of mixed Portuguese-black descent) and a mother of Irish and African descent. He is known for his distinctive humorous and funky playing style, and for his pioneering contributions to hard bop. Silver was influenced by a wide range of musical styles, notably gospel music, African music, and Latin American music.

Silver began his career as a saxophonist, but later switched to piano. His playing was highly influenced by the style of Bud Powell. Silver was discovered in a Hartford, Connecticut club by saxophonist Stan Getz. He moved to New York City, where he teamed with Art Blakey.

In 1952 and 1953 he recorded three sessions with his own trio, featuring Blakey on drums and Gene Ramey, Curly Russell and Percy Heath subsequently taking up the bass. The drummer-pianist team lasted for four years; during this time, Silver and Blakey recorded at Birdland (A Night at Birdland, Blue Note) with Clifford Brown and Lou Donaldson, at the Bohemia with Kenny Dorham and Hank Mobley, and finally - in the studios.

One of the studio albums was the famous The Jazz Messengers. During Silver's time with Blakey he rarely recorded as a leader, but having split with him in 1956, he formed his own hard bop quintet, at first featuring the same lineup as Blakey's Jazz Messengers, with 18-year-old Louis Hayes subbing for Blakey. The quintet's second lineup featured Blue Mitchell and Junior Cook.

They remained Silver's partners for a few years, parting with Silver in 1963, when he assembled a new band. This one featured Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone and Carmell Jones on trumpet; this quintet recorded one of the best-known albums by Silver - Song for My Father. When Jones left, the trumpet spot was filled by a young Woody Shaw.

During the sixties, the Silver bands merged hard bop with soul and R&B. Silver's compositions, catchy and very strong harmonically, gained popularity while his band moved towards a switch to the funk and soul territory.

This change of style was not readily accepted by many long-time fans. The quality of several albums of this era, such as The United States of Mind (on which Silver himself provided vocals on several tracks), is to this day contested by fans of the genre.

However, many of these later albums featured many interesting musicians (such as Randy Brecker). Silver remains one of the best pianists around, but does not record often.
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