Rock & Roll Books

Summer reading

Rock & Roll Books

Let's Get To The Nitty Gritty: The Autobiography of Horace Silver

by Horace Silver

University of California Press, 248 pp., $29.95

Pianist/composer Horace Silver's legacy of artistic stature and commercial success spans a half century and includes, not only some of the greatest small jazz groups ever, but also a fair share of the music's most memorable compositions and recordings. Unfortunately, this slender autobiography hardly does its subject the justice he richly deserves. Following his humble upbringing in Norwalk, Conn., and emergence on the NYC scene in the early Fifties, Silver gives us the rudiments of his esteemed career without being generous in detail. There's plenty about his travels and leadership with drummer Art Blakey of the fledgling Jazz Messengers, his life-altering spiritual awakening, and the least listened to albums in his prolific oeuvre. Most disheartening was the sole page dedicated to the six-year reign of his most renowned quintet and the one paragraph given to his handful of excellent Nineties albums. Likewise, the narrative is virtually bereft of any discussion of Silver's soulful piano style that forged R&B, gospel, bebop, and Caribbean elements into a rhythmically compelling signature. Sloppy editing leaves glowing errors – like the contention that trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist Vincent Herring were early quintet members, when neither man was even born yet. An enlightening afterward by editor Phil Pastras and comprehensive discography put a positive endnote on an unnecessarily disappointing read.

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