The music of Horace Silver played live at Chichester Jazz Club

Friday, 17th March, had me returning to Chichester Jazz Club for another evening of classic era jazz music with a focus on the compositions of Horace Silver. The line-up for the Horace Silver Project alone was enough to entice me to the venue, the fact that the band was paying tribute to one of the jazz greats was an added bonus.

L-R Marianne Windham, Clare Hirst, Andrea Vicari, Freddie Gavita & Matt Fishwick photographed by Robin Hollister

The playlist is made up of many of Horace Silver’s well known tunes and the jazz format is fairly standard: intro, head, solo, another solo, ensemble section, another solo, return to the head. The musicians playing know what they are doing and the musicians for this gig are all highly respected by the jazz community. The first set opened with ‘Sister Sadie’ written in 1959 by Horace Silver, and first recorded for his 1959 Blue Note Records album Blowin’ the Blues Away, and everything you would want to hear from this tune was there.

When the music is so familiar it is more about how the set list is structured so ‘Pretty Eyes’, with the warm tones of Gavita’s flugelhorn gave way to ‘Nica’s Dream’ and the wonderful trumpet melody, Latin vibe, and Marianne Windham’s solid bass lines adding tonal depth to the tune. ‘The Jody Grind’ had a wonderful funk groove centred theme with contrasting sax and trumpet lines and a very enjoyable bass solo. ‘The Preacher’ is based on the chords of ‘Show Me the Way to Go Home’, which Silver often used to end his concerts. This tune had an old time trad feel about it and watching Andrea Vicari at the piano was fascinating – such a physical player with alternate legs banging out the rhythm and, at one point, her whole body bouncing on the piano stool. The first set ended with ‘Cape Verdean Blues’, another Latin based number with wonderful stop-time drumming from Matt Fishwick.

The second set opened with an up tempo bop number with terrific piano playing from Andrea Vicari punctuated by sounds from sax and trumpet. Then came ‘Song For My Father’ with its dramatic piano opening into the Bossa Nova sound with saxophonist Clare Hirst weaving in and around the melody and contrasting piano lines. Freddie Gavita played with a strong sense of purpose and the bass and drums kept everything ticking along nicely. Freddie Gavita was heard to say “ooh this is hard” when ‘Ecaroh’ was introduced but the response from the audience at the end of the number suggests that the band performed it very well.

The next number was ‘Peace’ and this changed the dynamics completely. Ted Gioia wrote in his book The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire “You won’t find a single catchy melodic motif here, no surprising interlude, no harmonic shift that takes the piece in an unexpected direction.” He was right, this is a beautiful ballad with delightful harmonization, neat runs on the piano, captivating use of ebb and flow from the sax, and a gorgeous tone from Freddie Gavita’s flugelhorn who played in a relaxed style that suggested that he was thinking about each note before playing it – something I found very effective. For me this was one of the standout tunes of the evening.

From the ballad to the up tempo ‘Nutbill’ – not a Silver tune I am familiar with but boy did I enjoy it. The rolling left hand playing of Vicari will the right hand played out the melody. The repeating bass and drum patterns around which the tune developed the swapping of lead between sax and trumpet, and the strong drum solo made up of bursts of energetic playing all made for a highly entertaining number. The evening drew to a close with a final mid-tempo tune and an encore, which was thoroughly deserved, and I went home a very happy jazz fan.

Musicians: Freddie Gavita – trumpet; Clare Hirst – tenor sax; Andrea Vicari – piano; Marianne Windham – double bass; Matt Fishwick – drums.

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The Horace Silver Project at Chichester Jazz Club – March 2023

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