SEVEN… PLUS ONE very special guest, Mr Alan Barnes, celebrate the music of revered American bebop/hard-bop jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver in a lively new studio recording – 7 Pieces of Silver.
It’s barely two years since Silver passed away at the age of 85, leaving an extraordinarily rich legacy of classic 1950s Blue Note recordings – frequently as sideman (to the likes of Miles Davis, Hank Mobley and Lee Morgan), but perhaps most notably with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and also his own quintet.
Echoing the title of Silver’s 1956 recording 6 Pieces of Silver, this eponymous release follows on from the septet’s resounding appearances at Scarborough Jazz Festival in 2014, featuring arrangements of eight of the great man’s compositions plus a couple of originals from double bassist Paul Baxter. Joining Baxter are James Lancaster (trumpet), Stuart MacDonald (alto, baritone), John McKillup (tenor), Matthew Ball (trombone), Andrzej Baranek (piano) and Paul Smith (drums), with ‘Silverite’ Alan Barnes guesting on alto and clarinet on three numbers.
This four-piece horn and three-piece rhythm section sizzles energetically through Silver’s works, Camouflage bursting with effervescent solos whilst also offering subtle dynamic flicks. The effusive, close-knit harmonies of broad-swinging Juicy Lucy demonstrate how well the pianist’s works stand up almost sixty years on, and the fast Messengers-style pace of Diggin’ on Dexter tumbles to baritone-rasping unison horns and zealous soloing from tenorist John McKillup and Alan Barnes on alto.
So why not simply pull the original 1950s albums off the shelf? Well, Paul Baxter’s freshly-hued arrangements are, in the best sense of ‘new light through old windows’, a joy to hear – and it’s great to feel the immediacy and enthusiasm in these contemporary performances, including some rather tasty nuances. Baxter’s own compositions, too, mesh brilliantly with the overall sound world – Lube Sensor‘s cascading horn uproariousness and individual solo artistry respond superbly to the bassist’s masterfully threaded groove, and Andrzej Baranek’s luscious piano is befittingly prominent in closing tenor ballad The Others.
Elsewhere, Song For My Father (from Silver’s popular 1965 album of the same name) is supple and purposeful, Alan Barnes’ clarinet gleefully swirling and screeching above the band’s shared gusto; I Want You, The Jody Grind and Cool Eyes overflow with unalloyed boisterousness; and Peace is intriguingly reimagined for double bass, with alto, tenor and trombone gradually and deliciously folding in over its course.
The ardent appreciation of Horace Silver’s music is evident in this joyous hour of reinterpretation and empathetic new composition – and their quirky, homemade rehearsal movie, recorded at Valley Wood Studio, offers a glimpse of the bristling septet/octet sound!
Released on 1 February 2016, 7 Pieces of Silver is available directly from Hungry Bear Records.
James Lancaster trumpet
Stuart MacDonald alto saxophone, baritone saxophone
John McKillup tenor saxophone
Matthew Ball trombone
Andrzej Baranek piano
Paul Smith drums
Paul Baxter double bass, arrangements
Alan Barnes alto saxophone, clarinet (tracks 2, 3 and 6)
Hungry Bear Records – HBR009 (2016)