Jazz Review: Horace Silver Plays Song for My Father

June 2, 2018

With Father's Day occurring in about two weeks, this jazz review seems rather appropriate. 


Pianist Horace Silver's best-known album is probably Song for My Father. The best-known track on the album is not surprisingly called "Song for My Father". The album cover is easily recognized by the picture of Horace Silver's father and the cover's autumnal theme. 


Horace Silver's father was from the Cape Verde Islands, an island group off the west coast of Africa. His son's part-Cape Verdean heritage is reflected in much of Horace Silver's music. This meant that Horace Silver was an important figure in hard bop, which brought jazz away from bebop and more "back to its roots". 


During the early 1950s, Horace Silver was just a bluesy bebop pianist, but in the latter part of the 1950s, Horace Silver pushed the bebop era aside with his work in the Blue Note recording company and in the formation of Horace Silver's quintet, which formed when Silver left the Jazz Messengers. (If you remember, we did a jazz recommendation about a Jazz Messengers recording a while ago, and Horace Silver was on that recording.) 


Horace Silver's quintet changed over the years. However, one of his quintet's best recordings was in the mid-1960s, when Silver's quartet, with Joe Henderson on saxophone and pianist Horace Silver being the main soloists, recorded "Song for My Father". This tune reached a lot of the general public with its easily accessible rhythm section, percussive improvisation by Horace Silver, and lively saxophone improvisation by Joe Henderson. 


 The "Song for My Father" recording described in this jazz review, including a picture of the album cover.


The "Song for My Father" recording begins with a simple but effective introductory phrase by Horace Silver. He continues this phrase while the melody is played by saxophonist Joe Henderson and trumpeter Carmell Jones. The 24-bar melody, with two A sections and a bridge but no section as usual at the end, is played twice by the band at the beginning of the recording.


Horace Silver is the first one to take a solo, and his improvisation is percussive right through it. The blues influence in Silver's improvisation is obvious, but it is still clearly Horace Silver's style; you can always recognize Horace Silver from a solo he takes on a recording. His more than two-minute solo is followed with a Joe Henderson solo.


Tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson's solo does not begin in a very lively fashion, but it gets more exciting as it goes on. In the second minute of his solo, he builds to a climax, and the rhythm section builds excitement with him. Few tenor saxophonists could match Henderson's liveliness and excitement on this solo.


Finally, the band plays the melody one more time, and Horace Silver ends the recording with some percussive improvisation.



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