You really never need a reason to throw a Horace Silver album on. In fact, we here at Raggy Waltz headquarters (all one of me) are rather partial to Mr. Silver and his music and have been adding his albums to the collection as rapidly as possible. This album, however, has a lot of special meaning and value, and since the I’m exploring albums that conjure up pleasant memories, I guess there is a reason to throw this particular Horace Silver record on the turntable. But enough preamble- to the music!
The Tune: “Nutville”
Recorded: 22 October, 1965 at Rudy Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
- Joe Henderson – Tenor Sax
- Woody Shaw – Trumpet
- J. J. Johnson – Trombone
- Horace Silver – Piano
- Bob Cranshaw – Bass
- Roger Humphries – Drums
Despite being the great Horace Silver, I get the idea that his albums not named ‘Song For My Father’ are underloved and underrated. This album is a prime example of that. A sleeper beaut in Silver’s long recording career, this album was actually made directly after Silver’s hit record ‘Song For My Father’ but is altogether a different animal from that iconic album. Side one features Silver’s quintet stretching out on three of the leader’s compositions, playing with a relaxed, groovy, and very modern style. Saxophonist and legend himself Joe Henderson is a monster on every cut, confidently getting the job done with his already-distinctive voice. Trumpeter Woody Shaw plays with a gorgeously warm and fuzzy tone, even when he extends himself way out in harmonic outer space. Long-time Silver bassist Bob Cranshaw anchors the music with his solid bass work, something that’s hard to appreciate when he’s only playing five notes repeatedly until you realize he’s not only carrying the harmonic foundation but he’s creating the grooving swing as well. Lastly, Roger Humphries does a spectacular job adding rhythmic flair to the proceedings while holding the tempos down. This was without a doubt one of Horace Silver’s tightest groups that he ever led.
As for the music itself, it’s all classic Silver fare. Latin-tinged burners, Latin-tinged groovers, and deceptively simplistic melodies abound, often at the same time. I could describe each tune and explain how it’s fantastic, but I won’t. For instance, I won’t tell you that “The African Queen” is a lovely tune befitting of its title that languidly but nastily unfolds into nearly ten minutes of stimulating solos with nearly as stimulating accompaniment on piano by the leader. I’ll let you discover the hard swing the group achieves on “Pretty Eyes”, Silver’s first original waltz according to the liner notes.
And that’s just side one.
Side two adds the spice of J. J. Johnson’s trombone, and this extra spice makes for some extra kick in the music. “Nutville”, the opener to the second side, is exactly that- nuts. Piano, bass, and drums immediately establish the groove, then the three horns lay down the melody with deliciously dense harmonies. The sheer excitement and exuberance in Johnson’s solo is wonderfully tempered by Shaw’s ensuing mellow trumpet solo, which in turn contrasts with Henderson’s modernistic statements. This same kind of magic oozes out of each of the remaining tracks. The final tune is an original by Joe Henderson, and it swings the entire way, leaving the Latin bit behind.
As good a pianist as Horace Silver is, he was also a compositional genius. Listen to “The African Queen” or “Bonita” and see how he can make the most simplistic, uncluttered tune a masterpiece simply by throwing a Latin groove over it and letting his sidemen make the tune their own. It’s one of the reasons why I love Horace Silver and his music. Don Draper said it best: “Make it simple, but significant.” Horace Silver could’ve said this, and his music proves how potent following this credo can be.
Raggy Waltz Rating: B-
The picture is out of focus. There, I said it. Now we can move on.
Composition-wise, this is an interesting photograph, with the rule of thirds employed successfully. The plants both frame and enshroud the rather attractive and beguiling young woman, and the offset typeface is tasteful and artsy. I tried taking off that price sticker, but it started taking the cover with it. I hate when record stores attach them directly to the cover like that. What a disrespectful thing to do.
By the way, if you looked at that young lady and thought she looked familiar…
Leonard Feather always writes a good set of liners, and this is no exception. There’s a brief bit by Horace Silver himself, but the rest is Leonard Feather giving the background of the players, the album, and the tunes. I don’t know why, but it’s always amusing to me see guys like Nat Hentoff and Leonard Feather writing the liner notes to Blue Note albums. Well, I do know why. And it’s amusing.
Ah, Blue Note Records. I’ve mentioned before how much I love these blue and white labels. Absolutely love them. These crisp labels are on an original pressing, which is cool. Rudy Van Gelder’s stamp is in the runnout, next to the ‘ear’ marking. Released in 1966, this record was pressed just before Blue Note was sold to Liberty.
My copy is in glorious mono, and it crackles with life and vitality. The snare drum snaps with such life-like quality during Humphries’ solo on “Nutville” that you can feel it in your chest, like there was a real drummer in front of you. In fact, the drums in particular sound amazing throughout this record. RVG was great at what he did, and I’m lucky that the previous owner of this record kept it in such great shape.
The Place of Acquisition
In January of this year, one of my best friend’s (the guy that got me into vinyl records, actually) and I met up in New York City and spent a few days exploring. I had to visit a record shop while I was there, so while in Brooklyn, I made a trip to Superior Elevation Records. The amount of gold I found there was truly astounding to me. Flipping through the bins, I was shocked to find this Horace Silver album buried among the other records. I had the album on my phone, having bought it on iTunes years ago, so I knew it was a great album. More shocking was the price. Granted the album jacket was looking a little rough, but $80 still seemed low to me. The vinyl looked great, and I was happy to see it was an original pressing. Needless to say, I grabbed it with the swiftness. I’m glad I did.
Even though I was introduced to this album back in the sixth grade (“Cape Verdean Blues” came on the radio one day and I wrote it down), this New York trip is what makes this album special to me. Besides going to a legit record store while in the city, I had to make a NYC jazz club pilgrimage. During my time there, my friend and I explored Greenwich Village extensively, visiting the Blue Note, the Village Vanguard, and Cafe Bohemia. Another jazz club that I spent some time at was Small’s, a relatively new club down the street from the Village Vanguard. On my first night there, Small’s was the first jazz club I went to.
When the group for the last set of the night got up and began to play, they started with… “Nutville”! They really lit into it, too. My first time at a real jazz club and they’re playing Horace Silver? Heaven, I was in heaven. So to find the very record that “Nutville” appeared on the very next day? Truly unbelievable. This record (and the others that I bought there) takes me back to that snowy winter night in Greenwich Village, packed into a tiny room under the city, living my dream of hearing and seeing live jazz in New York City. Sitting behind the pianist that night, who would’ve thought that a mere month and a half later, the entire world would shut down and the clubs would close?