February 14, 2008

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Horace Silver, Live at Newport ’58
Blue Note Records, Feb. 5
Jazz pianist/standards-writer Horace Silver is a perfectionist who abstained from live releases save for one, 1961’s Doin’ the Thing: At the Village Gate. Now 79, Silver — a member of Miles Davis’ All Stars when the band recorded the classic Walkin’ album in 1954 — was pleasantly blindsided when producer Michael Cuscuna presented him with this 1958 concert recording discovered in the bowels of the Library of Congress’ tape archives. Though grainy in sound quality, it has a lot of sizzle and it provides a glimpse into Silver’s methods, playing the other members of his quintet until he got what he wanted out of them (cohorts for this Newport Jazz Festival headlining gig were tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, woefully underrated trumpeter Louis Smith, bassist Gene Taylor and drummer Louis Hayes). Captured during what has traditionally been considered Silver’s golden era — he was a hard-bop guy, a style extended from bebop that incorporated gospel and R&B — the disc’s most coveted nugget is the playful, elaborately melodic “Tippin’,” a live performance of which the jazz world had never been able to confirm as an actual undertaking until now. B+ — E. W. S.