The 1957 Horace Silver Quintet (featuring trumpeter Art Farmer and tenor-saxophonist Hank Mobley) is in top form on this date, particularly on "My One and Only Love" and their famous version of "Home Cookin'." All of Silver's Blue Note quintet recordings are consistently superb and swinging and, although not essential, this is a very enjoyable set.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
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Horace Silver is triply valuable. He is a pianist of unusually direct emotional power, with roots that reach into times before jazz was called by that name. He is a leader, since August 1956, of one of the most consistently energizing, naturally funky modern jazz combos. Of trie men on this recording, Farmer and Mobley have been with Horace since the beginning of the unit. Young Louis Hayes joined after the first week, and Teady Kotick has been with Horace for several months. Since this recording, Hank Mobley left to join Max Roach, and Clifford Jordan, who had replaced Sonny Rollins with Max, has in turn enlisted with Silver.
The third dimension of Horace is as a writer. Although much has been written and speculated upon concerning the present and future of writing in jazz, there are still very few creators of iazz originals who have evolved a wholly individual, instantly identifiable style. Horace is one. A number of his works have become part of the modern jazz language and are in the books of several contemporary combos and even big bands - "Doodlin'," "Opus De Funk," "The Preacher," "Split Kick," "Room 608," and "Ecaroh" (all available in original versions on previous Blue Note LPs 1518 and 1520).
In his most recent Blue Note album, Six Pieces of Silver (1539), Horace contributed six more originals, including his first venture into 6/8 time, "Senor Blues," and his first ballad, "Shirl."
In this collection, Horace has emerged with five more, including a few other "firsts." (The only standard is the Wood Mellin, "My One And Only Love.") Horace grows constantly as a writer, partly because he's innocent of complacency. "I'll try," he emphasizes, "to write in a lot of different grooves. I wrote a waltz, for instance, that I'd like to do in the future as a piano solo. I get a kick out of doing different things, working in different veins. Another thing I'd like to do is really get down some more with some or the Latin beats like the samba. Those cats really swing. Whatever I write though, I just try to be natural, to be myself."
"No Smokin'" is described by Horace as "a kind of up-tempo minor piece that gives everybody a chance to stretch out. There are also some written interludes. I'd had the title in mind for quite a while. 'Smoke' in slang means to cook, to wail. So that's what it means." For the benefit of etymologists who may still be confused, the title is also an example of the looking-glass form of communication tnat is occasionally prevalent in jazz argot. Just as "terrible" these days is apt to mean "wonderful," so "No Smokin'" means that a lot of cooking is going on.
"The Back Beat" represents the first time Horace has structured a song with two 1 6-measure phrases, followed by a channel of eight bars, and an eight-bar ending. "Although it's different in form," Horace says, "it feels natural the way it lays, and that's what counts." The title represents the fact that there are suggestions of a back beat in parts of the work. A back beat in the strict sense, Horace points out, is produced by the drums hitting on the second and fourth beats very heavily. In this case, the back beat is suggested by the rhythm playing a back beat figure against the melody with the bass, piano, drums being involved in a kind of vamp on the second and fourth beats in those places where the suggestion is stated.
"Soulville" is a minor blues of two 12-measure phrases, followed by a regular B-flat seven channel, and then back to the minor blues for 12 bars. It's the first minor blues of this kind Horace has written, and he got the idea from Lester Young's "D.B. Blues." The latter is not in minor but is structured the same way with an eight-bar "I Got Rhythm" channel. "Tne melody in mine," Horace explains, "is played in two-beat until the blowing section starts when it's in four. After everybody blows, there's an out chorus during which the horns play double-time against the rhythm playing two-beat. Then they come back in the channel with the melody and into the last 1 2 with a tag on the end." The title comes from the fact, Horace points out, that "this is a blues-type number, a soulful kind of number. Everybody has the kind of soul I mean here; only there are some people who have more of it than others. Everybody has some soul but some have so much that it reaches out and touches you."
"Home Cookin'," says Horace, "is another one of those nasty-type numbers. I mean 'earthy,' I guess. You know what 'down home' and 'cookin' ' signify. Greens and grits and all that kind of stuff. Anyway, the first four measures are in two. On the next four, we swing. The same thing happens in the next eight. The channel is in straight 4/4 time; and in the last eight, it's four in two and four in four again. After the blowing, there's an out chorus for 16 measures after which we return to the melody by the channel and play a little tag on the end with Teddy Kotick walking it out by himself.
'Metamorphosis' is the first tune of its kind I've done. Structurally, it's different. I didn't sit down and intend for it to come out that way," Horace declares, "but it did." In contrast to the usual phrase-lengths of eight or 16 bars or 12 in the clues, this song has two 15-measure phrases with a 1 6-bar channel and the last part 15 measures again. "Even thougn it's not even, it sounds even," says Horace, "and again, so long as itfeels natural, it's all right. I don't try to contrive something just to make it different. This just happened. After the out chorus, we go back into the channel, play the last 15, and there's a final tag. The channel is in beguine.
"The reason for the title," Horace continued, "is that the word indicates something changing from one thing to another, like when a caterpillar changes into a butterfly. Here, for example, the song begins with he rhythm playing 'chops,' breaks. The beat is there, but it's not moving. The horns are playing a figure and so is the rhythm. Then it goes into a beguine, back into chops, and finally breaks into tempo."
Horace chose "My One And Only Love" simply because "it's very beautiful and I like it. The horns play an intro in harmony, and then the piano comes in playing the melody in octaves with the horns in the background playing little figures. Then I take the channel by myself. The horns come in near the end of the channel with more background. There are solos by Art, Hank and myself. I take the last eight and the channel and they come back in. We end with the pattern of the intro, and go out." This, incidentally, is an instrumental version of Horace's arrangement of this song for Dutch singer Rita Reyes.
How, was the final query to Silver, do you compose? Is it a matter of diligent daily composing hours, or do you wait for the spark? "It has to just come to me," was the answer. "I can't force anything out of myself. I'll sit down and mess around and try to compose and nothing will happen. I'll search all over and won't find an idea. Usually the ideas come when I don't expect them. I'll be sitting down doodling and playing something else, and all of a sudden by accident, I'll hit on something that sounds good. I may get two or four or eiqht bars at first. Sometimes I get a fair amount; and maybe I'll get it all at one time. But a lot of times you get it in parts. And then too, an idea that sounds good one day doesn't sound good at all the next day. Take 'Home Cookin'.' I had it laying around for a long time. I didn't think it good enough, but then I changed things around, and now I like it."
So far, the originals that have finally been released by Horace have been muscular, head-shaking, nutritious additions to the mainstream of jazz writing. And all have that Silver signature feeling - a spare, penetrating, rocking wholeness of emotion and idea. There is no wastage; no ormolu ornamentation. The language is basic, earthy, and very personal.
-Nat Hentoff (original Liner Notes)