Horace Silver - piano
Blue Mitchell - trumpet
Junior Cook - tenor sax
Gene Taylor - bass
Louis Hayes - drums
This most potent edition of the Horace Silver Quintet had hit its stride at the time of its appearance at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival. Their superb Blue Note recording Finger Poppin' (now widely acknowledged as a hard bop classic) had only recently been released and the same lineup -- Silver on piano, Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Junior Cook on tenor sax, Gene Taylor on bass and Louis Hayes on drums -- would go into the studio just six weeks later to record the equally successful Blowin' the Blues Away for Blue Note. They premiered material from both albums at their triumphant July 3rd set at Freebody Park in Newport.
They open with the energetic title track from Blowin' the Blues Away, which is underscored by Silver's funky comping and the ferociously swinging momentum of drummer Hayes, who would end up leaving Silver's quintet later that year to join the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Cook is highlighted first, turning in a typically driving, robust-toned tenor solo. Mitchell answers with a bristling trumpet solo that is imbued with soulful virtuosity and crackling intensity while Silver's piano solo is marked by quirky, off-kilter rhythmic phrases and extrapolations on the bluesy theme. Cook and Mitchell follow with some spirited call-and-response before returning to the tight harmonies on the infectious head.
Mitchell and Cook are prominently featured on Silver's beautiful ballad "Peace," yet another premiere for this Newport crowd. Cook, a respected hard bop improviser with a forceful approach to his horn, turns in a particularly thoughtful and highly expressive tenor solo here while Mitchell's lyrical trumpet solo perfectly reflects the title of this restful number. Radically shifting gears, the quintet then jumps into a frantic rendition of the uptempo burner "Cookin' at the Continental" (from Finger Poppin'). Cook and Mitchell play tight unisons on the head of this hard bop romp before Cook breaks loose for an extended fire-breathing tenor solo. Mitchell responds with some heat of his own on trumpet, gradually building to a furious high-note crescendo as Taylor and Hayes stoke the flames with their insistently swinging pulse. Silver follows with a piano solo that is typically against-the-grain both rhythmically and harmonically, almost in a Monkish sense, without dissipating any of the swinging momentum the band had achieved. Hayes gets in some rapid-fire exchanges with the frontline soloists before they return to the tightly-arranged head at the tag. They close out their exhilarating set with the soulful hard bop anthem "Sister Sadie," another Newport premiere which would later appear on Blowin' the Blues Away. This piece exemplifies that downhome, funky quality that was a key component of Silver's writing, so readily apparent on earlier pieces like "Doodlin',' "The Preacher" and "Filthy McNasty" and also typified by later works like 1966's The Jody Grind, 1968's Serenade to a Soul Sister, 1993's It's Got to be Funky and 1994's Pencil Packin' Papa.
Born on September 2, 1928 in Norwalk, Connecticut, Silver's earliest musical influences came from the Cape Verdean folk music that his Portuguese-born father played around the house. (In 1965, Silver paid tribute to his roots on the classic Blue Note album, Cape Verdean Blues). He began playing tenor saxophone in high school before switching to piano, inspired by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum and Bud Powell. He was discovered in 1950 by Stan Getz playing in a jazz club in Connecticut and Getz subsequently used Silver's working trio as a backing band for his own concert in Hartford. In 1951, Silver moved to New York and began working with such established jazz artists as Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Oscar Pettiford. In 1952, he played his first Blue Note session, a date led by alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson. The following year he joined forces with Art Blakey to co-lead The Jazz Messengers. They recorded a few albums together for Blue Note and in 1956 Silver left the band to record on his own. The string of albums that he released on Blue Note through the '50s and into the early '60s (including his 1964 hit single, "Song for My Father") established him as a major force in the genre that came to be known as hard bop.
Silver's '70s bands included such future stars as drummer Billy Cobham, tenor saxophonists Michael Brecker and Bob Berg, trumpeters Randy Brecker and Tom Harrell. All of his recorded output through the '80s was released on his own Silveto label, and he returned to major label status in 1993 with 1993's It's Got to be Funky. His last recording as a leader (for the GRP label) was Jazz Has a Sense of Humor, a credo that Silver carried throughout his illustrious career. (Milkowski)