By Dedrick Henry, Sr.
Horace Silver, the prolific jazz pianist and composer who co-founded the legendary Jazz Messengers, has died. He was 85.
Silver died Wednesday at his home in New Rochelle, NY of natural causes, according to his son, Gregory.
Silver was born Sept. 2, 1928, in Norwalk, Conn. His father, John Tavares Silver, was an immigrant from Cape Verde. Growing up, Silver heard the folk music of his father’s homeland and Black gospel music in church. But after listening to Jimmie Lunceford, Silver knew his path was music. Silver began his study of music on an old, upright piano his uncle had salvaged.
By the time he was a teenager he was playing scores and composing.
In 1949 tenor saxophonist Stan Getz gave Silver his first professional job as a sideman and a chance to play with high-ranked musicians. From the beginning Silver considered himself as a composer. In his time with Getz the group recorded three of his compositions: “Penny,” “Potter’s Luck” and “Split Kick.”
After a year with Getz, Silver left and began freelancing, playing gigs with Coleman Hawkins, Lester “Prez” Young and Art Blakey. Recording sessions in 1954 and 1955 Silver brought together a quintet that included Blakey on drums, Hank Mobley on tenor sax, Kenny Dorham on trumpet and Doug Watkins on bass. The sessions produced two albums originally released as “The Horace Silver Quintet,” and gave birth to what would become the Jazz Messengers. Silver called them “most definitely one of the greatest groups I’ve ever had the privilege of recording with.” Silver is survived by his son.