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Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty

Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty: The Autobiography of Horace Silver

Edited, with Afterword, by Phil Pastras
Foreword by Joe Zawinul
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty
    Book Description:

    Horace Silver is one of the last giants remaining from the incredible flowering and creative extension of bebop music that became known as "hard bop" in the 1950s. This freewheeling autobiography of the great composer, pianist, and bandleader takes us from his childhood in Norwalk, Connecticut, through his rise to fame as a musician in New York, to his comfortable life "after the road" in California. During that time, Silver composed an impressive repertoire of tunes that have become standards and recorded a number of classic albums. Well-seasoned with anecdotes about the music, the musicians, and the milieu in which he worked and prospered, Silver's narrative-like his music-is earthy, vernacular, and intimate. His stories resonate with lessons learned from hearing and playing alongside such legends as Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young. His irrepressible sense of humor combined with his distinctive spirituality make his account both entertaining and inspiring. Most importantly, Silver's unique take on the music and the people who play it opens a window onto the creative process of jazz and the social and cultural worlds in which it flourishes.Let's Get to the Nitty Grittyalso describes Silver's spiritual awakening in the late 1970s. This transformation found its expression in the electronic and vocal music of the three-part work called The United States of Mind and eventually led the musician to start his own record label, Silveto. Silver details the economic forces that eventually persuaded him to put Silveto to rest and to return to the studios of major jazz recording labels like Columbia, Impulse, and Verve, where he continued expanding his catalogue of new compositions and recordings that are at least as impressive as his earlier work.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94142-7
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)

    Throughout the history of music, there have been thousands of master players, artists, and composers. Yet each generation has produced relatively few individuals with something so distinctive, personal, and recognizable that when you hear the music not only do you know whose music it is but it also seems that you know thatperson. These are the ones who will always be remembered. In this very privileged group belongs theheroof this book . . . horace silver.

    Enjoy his story!...

    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Chapter One CHILDHOOD
    (pp. 1-17)

    I was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, on September 2, 1928. My parents are John Tavares Silver and Gertrude Silver, two of the greatest parents a guy could ever have.

    Dad was born in the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of west Africa, somewhat near Angola. The island where he was born is called Maio, or the Isle of May. Dad worked his way to the United States on a boat. I don’t know just how old he was when he came to this country, but I do know he was a young man. He settled in Massachusetts at first...

    (pp. 18-33)

    St. Mary’s catholic school only went through the eighth grade. I had to go to Center Junior High for ninth grade and then on to Norwalk High. Once I got into the public school system, I realized that you could sign up for band and orchestra and gain points toward your graduation. The schools let you borrow an instrument and gave you free lessons.

    Being a great fan of tenor saxophonist Lester Young, I chose to play the tenor sax. I played the tenor from ninth grade to eleventh grade in the high school band and orchestra. During my twelfth...

    (pp. 34-89)

    Moving from Norwalk to Hartford represented a step upward on the ladder of my career, especially since the musicians in Hartford were more involved in jazz than those in Norwalk. The next step upward on the ladder was to be the Big Apple—New York City.

    Several Hartford talents had made it to the big time. Singer Arthur Prysock, who performed with the Buddy Johnson big band, was from Hartford. After he left the band and went out on his own, another Hartford singer, Nolan Lewis, took his place with Buddy’s band. Nolan was a fine vocalist, but he had...

  9. Chapter Four THE QUINTET
    (pp. 90-120)

    I was twenty-seven years old when I started my quintet, just after I left the Jazz Messengers. The quintet came about as a result of several albums I recorded for Alfred Lion and the Blue Note label. I did not have a regular working band at the time. I just got the guys together, rehearsed them, and made an album. One day in 1956, I received a phone call from Jack Whittemore, a booking agent. He said that the Showboat, a Philadelphia nightclub, wanted to book my quintet for a week’s engagement. The owner of the Showboat told him my...

    (pp. 121-150)

    The Horace silver quintet was booked back into the Showboat in Philly several times over the years after our debut performance there in 1956. We always drew crowds in Philadelphia. The people loved us. We also played Pep’s Show Bar and the Blue Note in Philly. We worked a six-day week, Monday through Saturday, with a matinee on Saturday from four to seven o’clock and an evening performance at nine, with a two-hour break for dinner.

    I first met comedian Bill Cosby in Philly. He has always been a big jazz fan, and he used to come into the Showboat...

    (pp. None)
    (pp. 151-176)

    By the end of the 1980s, I had come to feel that keeping a working band together and living on the road had become a merry-go-round, and I wanted to get off. But I didn’t know how. For many years, I had been successful with the quintet; people still liked my group, and I still liked it, too. It’s not that I didn’t like what we were doing, but I just wanted to expand and grow. I wanted to get off the merry-go-round of the quintet and the same tours every year, every year, around and around.

    Finally, I decided...

    (pp. 177-182)

    I always keep in mind my conversation with pianist Jimmy Jones, who passed along to me Duke Ellington’s observation that music is vast and that we who have been blessed with talent should utilize it in ever-expanding ways—that we should not get hung up on one approach. Life is all about the growth of our talents; we must not allow them to wither and die. We should water the flower of our talents with enthusiasm, so that they can grow in many different directions. This is not always easy for me to do, especially when adversity stands in my...

    (pp. 183-196)

    For more than a year, I regularly made the glorious drive south on the Pacific Coast Highway from my apartment in Ventura to Horace Silver’s home in Malibu: to the left, the Santa Monica Mountains, vertical cliffs that border the highway; or, around the next bend in the road, rolling hills baked in the sun, lush gardens, or the green, manicured lawns of the Pepperdine College campus; to the right, the surf in all its many moods, from fog to brilliant sunlight, from calm to storm. Quite naturally, from now on, whenever I think about that stretch of Southern California...

    (pp. 197-242)
    (pp. 243-244)
    (pp. 245-246)
  18. AWARDS
    (pp. 247-248)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 249-264)