Jazz Review: Horace Silver Plays "Whenever Lester Plays the Blues"

August 11, 2018

When we write jazz reviews, it's true that we often choose Silver; but there's a reason: he had a long career, from his work with Miles Davis and Dave Schildkraut to his famous quintet. However, we have only been into detail about a few of Silver's quintet recordings, and the ones we have reviewed were all recorded in the 1960s and early 1970s. In this jazz review, we'll go into the 1990s and review a Horace Silver quintet recording. 


According to Wikipedia, Horace Silver's album Prescription for the Blues was recorded and released in 1997. It was his last album with the label Impulse and one of the last albums he recorded. The album included several tunes, and one of these was "Whenever Lester Plays the Blues". 


By the time Silver recorded his Prescription for the Blues album, he had made many changes to his band since the 1960s, when he recorded the best-known of his many albums. He attempted many different sounds with different personnel from year to year. For example, in 1964 he recorded the famous Song for My Father album with a quintet but had made changes to his band by 1965 when he recorded his other famous Cape Verdean Blues album. He once again made changes to his band and went into a slightly more avant-garde direction with The Jody Grind, only to get right back to blues with his 1968 album, Serenade to a Soul Sister. In the early 1970s, he was using vocalists on his albums, and continued to make changes to his music group personnel from the 1970s onward. He settled on a new style in the late 1990s only to stop recording altogether! 


Scott Yanow states the following in his AllMusic review of Prescription for the Blues: "The funny part about Silver's music is that, no matter who he is paying tribute to (this set includes a song for Lester Young), the style always ends up sounding like Horace Silver, with no real reference to the subject matter." The tune "When Lester Plays the Blues" definitely has no connection to Lester Young but is clearly a Horace Silver tune.


 The version of "Whenever Lester Plays the Blues" described in this jazz review.


The tune written for Young is not especially notable, but the solos, particularly those played by trumpeter Randy Brecker and tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, are. Randy Brecker is the first to solo. 


Not every phrase Randy Brecker plays is* astonishing. But his phrases are well-played and, while none of them are obviously poor, some of those played toward the end of his solo bring up the excitement level and show that when he is at his best his trumpet playing can be compared to Lee Morgan and other excellent trumpeters. 


The next soloist is Randy Brecker's brother, Michael Brecker. Even though Michael Brecker wasn't primarily a hard bop saxophonist, this recording shows that he could be a hard bop musician when he wanted to be, and that he could play like Tyrone Washington and Joe Henderson when the recording session called for it. 


Silver is the next to solo, and while he changed the musical styles of his bands over the years, his piano style was still the same as it had been thirty years earlier. The group then returns to playing some phrases as a group, playing the tune, and bringing the recording to an end. 


*Different tenses are used for Randy Brecker and Michael Brecker because (as of August 11th, 2018) Randy Brecker is still alive, while Michael Brecker is not. 




Personnel listing, from Wikipedia: Horace Silver – piano; Randy Brecker – trumpet; Michael Brecker – tenor saxophone; Ron Carter – bass; and Louis Hayes – drums.

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