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Horace Silver Rocks Rachmaninoff

Horace Silver had a dream once. A strange dream. The hard-bop pianist imagined jazz visionary Duke Ellington and classical pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff met up in heaven. Duke then took the classical pianist to meet all jazz and blues greats like Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins and Muddy Waters to give him an appreciation of his music.

Unlike you or me, Horace Silver remembers his dreams in striking detail, and thus began his creation of his strange jazz-theater piece that attempted to stage the meetings. Here’s what Silver says in the liner notes:

When I finished writing it I said to myself, “How am I going to get this play on stage?” I went to Mayor Tom Bradley and said if he could help me to put this musical on in the city of Los Angeles I would donate my services free. The proceeds could go to his favorite charity, which was “Challengers Boys and Girls Club” of Los Angeles. Only the musicians and the singers and the dancers and our choreographer (Donald Mc Kayle) had to be paid scale. Chuck Niles our narrator would accept no money.

Mayor Bradley introduced me to Valerie Fields of the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs. With his and her help we premiered at the Barnesdale Theatre in Hollywood. Sadly, nothing ever happened with it after that. I decided to take the band and singers into the studio and record the music. I intended to release that music on my Silveto Record Label but I had to close down my business because of difficulties with record distributors. I then signed up with Colombia Records and later GRP Impulse and Verve Records. I had to shelve Rockin’ With Rachmaninoff for the moment because I was under exclusive contract to these companies.

Finally seeing the light of day, the album version of Rockin’ With Rachmaninoff is the hard-bop great’s first release since signing on with Bop City Records (which is owned by the DH1 Studios). As reported here, Silver recently signed on to the imprint after ending his decade-long tenure with Verve and its sister labels.

Helping Silver out with his jazz-opera were Rickey Woodard and Ralph Bowen on tenor sax, Michael Mossman and Bob Summers on trumpet, Andy Martin and Bob McChesney on trombone, Bob Maize on bass and Carl Burnett on drums. (The ghost of Rachmaninoff played the triangle.)

Here is the track listing for Rockin’ With Rachmaninoff:

1. Rocky’s Overture

2. Rocky Meets the Duke

3. Satchmo’s Song

4. Monkeyin’ Around With Monk

5. A Ballad for Hawk

6. The Skunky Funky Blues

7. Sunday Mornin’ Prayer Meetin’

8. Hallelujah to Ya

9. The Righteous Rumba

10. Lavender Love

11.Rockin’ With Rachmaninoff

Bop City has an mp3 of “The Skunky Funky Blues” available for download at its Web site, www.bopcity.com.

Originally Published