Silver’s Blue documents Horace Silver’s earliest work as a bandleader outside of his Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers association. It was made in 1956 to fulfill a contract obligation with Columbia, after which Silver moved to Blue Note, where he recorded a series of hard-bop classics (Blowin’ the Blues Away, Doin’ the Thing, et al.).
Silver’s Blue is not on the level of the pianist’s best Blue Notes. It does not contain any important original compositions. Donald Byrd was a more predictable, less compelling player than the trumpeters who followed him in Silver’s bands: Art Farmer, Blue Mitchell and Carmell Jones. Yet Silver’s Blue is worth owning for the work of Hank Mobley, one of the most undervalued of all great tenor saxophonists. On the title track, a deep in-the-pocket blues, Mobley’s first solo is perfectly representative and epic. It is so rhythmically complex that if you plotted its accentual variations, you would have a brilliant drum solo. Yet it feels understated, unhurried and instinctive. Then there is Mobley’s mellow sound, which led Leonard Feather to call him the “middleweight champion” of tenors. It is sleek and supple as fine black leather and also as hip.