The Two-Way
3:20 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

Jazz Pianist, Composer Horace Silver Dies At 85

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 4:43 pm

This post was updated at 5:40 p.m. ET.

Pianist and composer Horace Silver, who created a rhythmic jazz known as "hard bop" that combined R&B and gospel to go along with his eclectic style of piano playing, has died at age 85, his son confirms.

Silver began as a tenor saxophonist playing in clubs in his native Connecticut, where he was discovered by Stan Getz. He moved to New York in the 1950s, where he switched to piano, formed a trio, and began performing at the Blue Note Jazz Club. He eventually signed on with Blue Note and stuck with the iconic label until the 1980s. Silver performed with not only Getz but also Lester Young, Miles Davis and Art Blakey.

Walter Ray Watson, reporting on All Things Considered, says: "As a bandleader, Horace Silver mentored some of the hottest musicians of his era. As a composer, he devised numerous jazz standards still played today."

Bassist Christian McBride told NPR in 2008 that Silver's music had long been his favorite.

"Horace Silver's music has always represented what jazz musicians preach but don't necessarily practice, and that's simplicity," McBride said. "It sticks to the memory; it's very singable. It gets in your blood easily; you can comprehend it easily. It's very rooted, very soulful."

In his autobiography, Let's Get To The Nitty Gritty, Silver said his earliest musical influence was his father, who "played the violin, guitar, and mandolin, strictly by ear.

"He loved the folk music of Cape Verde. Mr. Nick Santos and Mr. Manuel Perry, friends of my dad who were Cape Verdean, played these instruments also," Silver wrote.

"Occasionally, they would give a dance party in our kitchen on a Saturday night. The women fried up some chicken and made potato salad. The men would get whiskey and beer and invite all their friends, Cape Verdean and American blacks, to come and have a good time," he said.

A biography of Silver on horacesilver.com notes:

"As social and cultural upheavals shook the nation during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Silver responded to these changes through music. He commented directly on the new scene through a trio of records called United States of Mind (1970-1972) that featured the spirited vocals of Andy Bey. The composer got deeper into cosmic philosophy as his group, Silver 'N Strings, recorded Silver 'N Strings Play The Music of the Spheres (1979).

"After Silver's long tenure with Blue Note ended, he continued to create vital music. The 1985 album, Continuity of Spirit (Silveto), features his unique orchestral collaborations. In the 1990s, Silver directly answered the urban popular music that had been largely built from his influence on It's Got To Be Funky (Columbia, 1993). On Jazz Has A Sense of Humor (Verve, 1998), he shows his younger group of sidemen the true meaning of the music."

Silver's son, Gregory, said the composer/performer died of natural causes on Wednesday morning.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.