Remembering Jazz Composer Horace Silver

Horace Silver was one of jazz’s most influential composers and talented pianists. He’d played with countless greats, from Sonny Rollins to Miles Davis, and led a quintet that shaped jazz as we know it. You might not know Silver’s songs by name, but you’ve probably heard his melodies sampled in hip-hop. Silver died in June 2014 at age 85; Peter Keepnews reflected on Silver’s legacy in a New York Times obituary that ran that same month:

“I had the house rhythm section at a club called the Sundown in Hartford,” Mr. Silver told The New York Times in 1981. “Stan Getz came up and played with us. He said he was going to call us, but we didn’t take him seriously. But a couple of weeks later he called and said he wanted the whole trio to join him.”

Mr. Silver worked briefly with Getz before moving to New York in 1951. He was soon in demand as an accompanist, working with leading jazz musicians like the saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. In 1953, Mr. Silver and the drummer Art Blakey formed a cooperative group, the Jazz Messengers, whose aggressive style helped define hard bop and whose lineup of trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, bass and drums became the standard hard-bop instrumentation.

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