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Horace Silver: Paris Blues

For hard-bop fanciers, the release of a previously unheard 1962 concert by the Horace Silver Quintet is an event worthy of celebration. Though this edition of the group recorded six-and-a-half classic records for Blue Note, most fans of the idiom would probably be happy to have as many more. Oddly, the lineup of trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor and drummer Roy Brooks isn’t often named among the great ensembles of the era, but few bands could beat this one for swing, good humor, excellent soloing and, above all, group chemistry. So well did the members get along musically that when Mitchell left to form his own band he took Cook and Taylor with him.

Here it takes about half of the opening “Where You At” for the group to really get into the flow, presumably as they got used to the sound onstage. But by the time the hour-long concert is over, only the moldiest of figs or most doctrinaire advocates of all things avant will not have fallen in love with the music. The program consists of five durable Silver standards and once they get rolling, Mitchell and Cook are as winning as ever; the trumpeter managing to convey both bittersweet emotion and sly humor while the tenorman leads from his great tone and sense of swing. Both horns build impressive extended solos, but it’s the leader who threatens to steal the show. The piano is extremely well recorded, so those trademark, quirky left-hand figures really jump out. Silver often finds ways to make a sequence of simple ideas build in a way that’s somehow both inevitable and very surprising, but he can also turn out a whole blues chorus that sounds as down-home as Memphis Slim or introduce polytonal tension in a way that’s very reminiscent of Abdullah Ibrahim’s later approach. If Art Blakey was the perfect drummer for Monk, a listen to Roy Brooks here makes a convincing case for him being Silver’s ideal section-mate, and though he’s relegated to a supporting role, Taylor’s bass sound is a most important component of the group sound.

This is a top-notch outing by a classic group, and the years between the recording and its release have done nothing but add to the music’s significance. Let’s see how many newly waxed 2003 titles can measure up to this one.

Originally Published