'Fun-Loving' Jazz Master Dead at 85

Horace Silver helped pioneer hard bop and wrote infectious tunes

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 20, 2014 2:08 PM CDT

(Newser) – Jazz fans lost one of the greats this week—pianist, composer, and band leader Horace Silver. He died at his home in New Rochelle, NY, on Wednesday at age 85, the New York Times reports. In the 1950s, Silver helped pioneer hard bop, a driving, rhythmic music that critics considered the antithesis of cool jazz. Silver's earthy tunes drew on his love for R&B, gospel, Latin, bebop, and Afro-Portuguese music of Cape Verde, where his father came from, DownBeat reports. "Musical composition should bring happiness and joy to people and make them forget their troubles," Silver once said.

Born in 1928 in Connecticut, Silver got his break playing for saxophonist Stan Getz and went on to form the Jazz Messengers with Art Blakey in 1953. About two years later, Silver began carving out his own career with a quintet that made classic recordings on Blue Note Records like Song for My Father and Finger Poppin'. The group changed players over the years and served "as breeding grounds for future greats" like Joe Henderson, Hank Mobley, Blue Mitchell, and Woody Shaw, notes Jazz Times. Silver broke up the band in the 1970s and went on to write and perform other music—like "self-help holistic metaphysical" works that critics rarely liked—but Silver was already an icon of jazz. "It’s gone pretty much the way I wanted it to, the way I dreamed that it would," he said in 1996. "I've gotten to work with many of my idols: Coleman Hawkins, Pres, Miles, Art Blakey. I'm a happy man."

This undated image released by the National Endowment for the Arts shows musician Horace Silver.
This undated image released by the National Endowment for the Arts shows musician Horace Silver.   (AP Photo/National Endowment for the Arts, Tom Pich)
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The Horace Silver Quintet plays "Finger Poppin'."   (YouTube)

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Horace put the fun back in the music. His was an approach that put dance up front once again like the old days but reached forward harmonically at the same time. - Mike LeDonne, keyboardist

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