The Upshot: One-time drummer for Horace Silver pays tribute to the relationship five decades later with a collection of Silver covers and reverent originals.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
When he was only nineteen years old, drummer Louis Hayes moved to New York City and joined a band led by Horace Silver, staying with the celebrated pianist and composer for four years, five albums and future standards like “Silver’s Serenade,” “Sister Sadie” and “Señor Blues.” Five decades later, on the eve of his own 80th birthday, Hayes gives thanks to the man who gave him his start in the jazz universe with Serenade For Horace. Leading an ensemble consisting of both respected veterans like vibist Steve Nelson and up-and-comers like bassist/co-producer Dezron Douglas, Hayes highlights the music of his former employer with taste, empathy and, most importantly, love.
Silver’s swinging post bop is some of the most accessible of its era, highlighting melodies and riffs without losing the improvisational fire. Tunes like “Silver’s Serenade” and “Song For My Father” catch the ears of even the jazz-uninitiated, while their finger popping rhythms move the hips as well as the head. Hayes and his musicians stick to those values, playing the songs as he played them originally. Despite impressive playing, “Silver’s Serenade” and “Señor Blues” remain engaging outside of music nerd circles – Abraham Burton’s sax solo on the former burns while still being open and friendly. “Strollin’” and “Summer in Central Park” swing in that relaxed manner that so common in the fifties and so rare today, with a supper club ambience that’s more than just nostalgia. “Song For My Father,” perhaps Silver’s most famous composition, makes it even easier via vocals from singer Gregory Porter, whose golden pipes wrap around the occasionally mawkish lyrics like a blanket on a shivering dog. Though important to the music’s narrative due to the original composer’s instrument, pianist David Bryant doesn’t dominate the arrangements, mainly providing support. But his solos on “St. Vitus Dance,” “Juicy Luicy” and the ballad “Lonely Woman” balance impressive technique with a highly lyrical touch, traits he shares with the composer.
While the program is made up of Silver’s most famous works, one of the best tracks comes not from his pen, but from bandleader Hayes’. Derivative in the best way, “Hastings Street” perfectly emulates Silver’s swinging accessibility without sounding like nostalgia – it continues a tradition instead of bowing down to it. It’s that touch that makes Serenade For Horace into a true tribute album, and not just a set of covers.
DOWNLOAD: “Juicy Lucy,” “Hastings Street,” “Silver’s Serenade”