First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2005, Volume 12, #8
Written by John Metzger
In the span of just a few years, Horace Silver went from playing the role of a sideman for saxophonist Stan Getz to joining forces with Art Blakey to form the Jazz Messengers. Nevertheless, the story behind Horace Silver’s relationship with both the group and Columbia Records is bit convoluted. Although the Jazz Messengers shifted from Blue Note to Columbia for a brief two-album stint, Silver left the ensemble prior to the recording of Hard Bop. As a result, he owed Columbia an album, even though the reason for his departure was to begin his solo career with Blue Note. As a result, he convened a pair of sessions to fulfill his contract. In essence, he took the Jazz Messengers with him, though to be fair, he was instrumental in bringing this rendition of the collective together in the first place.
Indeed, throughout Silver’s Blue, the foundation for The Horace Silver Quintet was composed of saxophonist Hank Mobley, trumpeter Donald Byrd, and bass player Doug Watkins while Art Taylor — a veteran of both Coleman Hawkins and Bud Powell’s combos — replaced Blakey. To further complicate matters, neither Byrd nor Taylor could make the earliest recording date, and respectively hired to replace them were Joe Gordon and Kenny Clarke, both of whom appeared on only two selections (To Beat or Not to Beat and Shoutin’ Out). Truth be told, however, the album really can’t compete with Silver’s subsequent output for Blue Note. After all, the project’s genesis was inauspiciously messy, and it doesn’t seem terribly well orchestrated. Even so, one can hear the seeds of his later masterpieces beginning to take root — particularly during Hank’s Tune, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, and the title track — and his interactions with Mobley throughout the set are simply sublime. In fact, Mobley is the true star of Silver’s Blue for the manner in which he continually pokes and prods at each melody, breathing some much needed life into the otherwise perfunctory proceedings. ½
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box