Jazz Composer Profile 2 – Horace Silver

Jazz Composer Profile 2

Horace Silver

Quite often in music melody is the gravitational force that makes a composition memorable. The stronger the melody , the stronger this aural gravitational pull is. Nobody understood that better than one particular composer. His melodies are so catchy and well constructed that it is no wonder he stole the hearts of so many admirers with his compositions. His underlining harmony was in fact quite complex for the type of melodies being supported by it. But so well structured were his compositions that this fact was out-shadowed by the strongness of his melodies. So let us shred some silverlight on the incredible composer that is Horace Silver.

Groovy melodies were Horace Silver’s forté.

When I was doing the opening written work to this series (that worked as a gateway to the whole jazz composer series) I had a tough choice to choose the main representative for the series. I narrowed it down to two candidates – Wayne Shorter and Horace Silver. I chose Shorter by a small margin but it was pretty close. Perhaps if Horace Silver was called Horace Gold I would have picked him. However the case may be I think they are both genius composers for different reasons.

While Shorter is a deeply spiritual and introvert composer (in fact I called him the introvert genius) Silver understands the importance of memorable, strong and hummable memories and the importance of rhythm, groove and pulse. He knew what the people needed to hear but also was not shy in underlining new harmonic concepts and approaches. That is why I called him the extrovert genius in contrast to Shorter.

Silver’s main instrument was the piano but was a master in composing for the quintet. He composed mainly in the hard-bop era but took the genre in a totally different direction than everybody else. Most (piano) players took a following to Bud Powell‘s bebop language and approach but Silver wanted groove, pulse and rhythm to be the focus points of his compositions. His music was motive-based both in composing and playing. His harmony and approach were however very unique for the time. His cross-usage of latin, blues and soul motives in his rhythms, riffs and melodies have made his compositions very distinguishable.

A good analogy with what Silver was to the hard-bop genre is what Queen was to rock. Although still considered the same genre the approach mechanisms in composing were vastly original and different from anything else at the time. His arranging skills for quartet and quintet settings were astonishing creating the illusion of a big band sound with his ensembles.

Horace Silver influenced many composers and players alike for years to come with his own compositions and playing style.

His compositions vary in style. Some groovy compositions include the likes of Home Cookin’, The Jody Grind, The Preacher, Song For My Father and Sister Sadie. He could crank up the harmony as he has done with Barbara, Gregory Is Here and Horace-Scope. Latin influences can be heard in The African Queen and Nutville. Underneath is a list of 21 compositions composed by Silver (in alphabetical order, containing some of the above mentioned examples) with the corresponding Spotify playlist.

Horace Silver Compositions Spotify Playlist:

  1. The African Queen
  2. Barbara
  3. Ecaroh
  4. Gregory Is Here
  5. Home Cookin’
  6. Horace-Scope
  7. In Pursuit Of The 27th Man
  8. The Jody Grind
  9. Moon Rays
  10. Nica’s Dream
  11. Nutville
  12. Peace
  13. The Preacher
  14. Room 608
  15. Serenade To A Soul Sister
  16. Sister Sadie
  17. Song For My Father
  18. Strollin’
  19. Summer In Central Park
  20. Tippin’
  21. The Tokyo Blues

(c) 2019 Sibil Yanev

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