The Blue Note 4000 Project: 4008, Horace Silver Quintet, Finger Poppin’ (1959)

Catalog number: Blue Note 4008 Previous | Next

Musicians
Horace Silver (p), Junior Cook (ts), Blue Mitchell (tp), Gene Taylor (b), Louis Hayes (d)

Cover photo: Francis Wolff
Design: Reid Miles
Liner notes:
Leonard Feather

Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, January 31, 1959

Originally released April 1959


Date first heard: unknown

My Take

There is perhaps no better example of a “band” in all of jazz than Silver’s classic quintets (The Three Sounds notwithstanding). With the exception of the drum chair, Silver led this outfit on seven straight Blue Note releases from 1959 through 1964. I haven’t looked into it systematically, but it is difficult to think of any other string of albums with such consistent personnel.

For me, listening to the HSQ is like hanging out with an old friend. I’ve been a fan ever since my high school jazz group played “Song for my Father” and “Silver’s Serenade” more than 35 years ago. There’s an earthiness to Horace’s writing and playing that I have always found incredibly appealing. The grooves are familiar, friendly, and make you feel good.

Aside from his compositional genius, Silver always finds a way to adapt his technique to the tempo. Never a virtuoso on piano, he manages to improvise at bebop tempos through his clever use of 1) space, 2) bluesiness, and 3) transposing his phrases through the changes. This is done to great effect on “Cookin’ at the Continental.”

Just a word on that last point; if you haven’t noticed this, hear me out. Rather than stringing together lines that connect to the complex underlying harmonies by means of a cohesive melody (like, for example, Clifford Brown or Bud Powell), Silver has a different strategy. He will play a cool line based on the current chords. Then, as the chords descend through different keys, he will play that same cool line but in a different key to match the chords. (Grant Green got a ton of mileage out of this approach, as well [see for example, his solo on “Jean de Fleur.”])

This is the kind of jazz album that entertains on multiple levels. The performances are all top notch. (Has any front line ever been more consistently underrated/under-appreciated than Mitchell and Cook?) It is at times raucous (“Cookin’), soulful (“Juicy Lucy”), and poignantly introspective (“Sweet Stuff”). And like any of Silver’s work, it is so accessible that if you don’t like any of it, maybe jazz just isn’t your thing.

TL;DR: Jazz for people who say they don’t like jazz. If Horace Silver’s left hand comping doesn’t make you “pat your feet” or “pop your fingers”, you need to check the EEG.

Best track: “Cookin’ at the Continental”

Miscellaneous

Drummer Louis Hayes will be 84 on May 31 and still performs fairly regularly.

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