Horace Silver: Sterling Silver (1956-63) Liberty UA 1979


Selection 1: Senor Blues (alt. take) (EP version, first release on LP)

Artists: Silver/ Mobley/ Byrd/ Watkins/ Hayes

Selection 2: Tippin‘  (EP version, first release on LP)

Artists: Silver/ Byrd/ Cook/ Taylor/ Hayes


Sterling Silver features various live and studio recordings from the Silver Quintet  in 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961,  1964, and Horace in trio from 1963. Two tracks offer Mobley on tenor, the rest Junior Cook. Donald Byrd holds the trumpet on earlier sessions, Blue Mitchell on the rest. All recordings by van Gelder, studio, or live at the Village Gate


A break from chasing labels, let’s get back to some music, with this find, suited to the budget-conscious Blue Note vinyl lover. Unlike these Blue Note trophy-hunters, an example of what vintage collectors are up against- see here, and here (For an example of collector lust, click on the bids total and see how three or four battle it out, only to be snookered by a sleeping XXL snipe). I was blown out much earlier. Finds on a budget are good

I became aware of this Michael Cuscuna-curated collection of Horace recordings during my posthumous review of Silver’s Blue Note recordings, but I had never seen it in the flesh until I walked into it in a record store shelf. Unprepared, I surveyed the line-ups and recording dates with relish. Mobley, whoa! All not previously issued except two  titles recorded specially for EPs for radio and juke box promotion. Not that I had ever seen them before either.

The track I avert my ears from is the vocal version of Senor Blues, featuring singer Bill Henderson. Blue Note in 1958, testing the appetite of the jazz-buying public for a vocal rendition of the Silver hit Senor Blues.

Personally I think it’s ghastly (sorry Bill, you are welcome to disagree), but the idea was not pursued further, so I have selected the bop-oriented B-side “Tippin’ ” , and offer the shortened alternate take of Senor Blues, with Hank Mobley, an alternative take for juke box and radio play.

All the tracks are worthy selections uncovered by Cuscuna in his rummage through the Blue Note tape boxes held by United Artists, and released in 1979 during the dying gasps of Liberty/United records before they fell into the hands of EMI (Evil Music Industries).  Vintage van Gelder, a great set of recordings, nicely packaged including the only Blue Note inner bag dedicated to a specific release. Gatefold-not.

Vinyl:  United Artists Blue Note BN-LA 945-H

Original 1979 pressing, unknown provenance, unreadable matrix codes, most unusual pressing die profile, an oddity all round but a good sounding record courtesy of RVG .

Horace-Silver-Sterling-Silver-labels-1800-LJC - 2


Horace-Silver-Sterling-Silver-back-1800-LJC Collector’s Corner

Overlooked but an inexpensive and worthy addition to anyone’s Horace collection, the man with the smiling piano. Vintage recordings, most not previously released, nicely presented with an absorbing background commentary from Michael Cuscuna. Not to be confused with “reissues”. It also benefits from being born two decades after vinyl-damaging equipment, then called record players, began to be replaced by domestic hi-fi turntables. And of course, Mobley’s tenor: can’t get enough of those notes of roasted malt and dark chocolate. Who needs singing when you have a “voice” like Mobley?



17 thoughts on “Horace Silver: Sterling Silver (1956-63) Liberty UA 1979

  1. Vocal is like an in strument, if you have in one hand a woman like Anita O Day you will desire others musici and like her…if you have encountered, in your jazz-walking-way an album like Bennett and Evans album , you will be prepared to the coroner boys….i do not have, really, many vocale album but my background are in the new wave and seventies rock, so vocals
    are most important for me, like Joe Henderson voice….


  2. Sorry I can’t fully agree with you about jazz vocals, LJC. The Bill Henderson offering is dreadful, but you’re throwing out some pretty fine vocal pieces: Billy Holiday on “Strange Fruit”, Ella on many things, “Mumbles” by Clark Terry, numerous musicians who sang: Armstrong, Teagarden, Eldridge, Sarah Vaughan, even Oscar Peterson and Nat King Cole (Listen to his piano playing.).
    We can’t just include the bad stuff and generalize that it’s all that bad.


    • It’s not about the bad stuff, Teach. It’s about the good stuff. Some of us simply don’t appreciate the contributions made by the vocal department. They might feel, for instance, that good music doesn’t require lyrics and that instrumental music is art in its purest form. I’m not saying I fully agree with this, but that’s the way things are.


    • I seem to find myself on the wrong side with singing. Get’s you branded as “narrow-minded”, apparently.

      I ask: would Blue Train sound better with lyrics? Da da di da da…(refrain) “I’m standing on the platform waiting for the Blue Train, which has been cancelled due to an earlier incident, (we are sorry for any delay to your journey, honey.) Got those Blue Train blues, yeah… miss my baby, she’s got an off-peak saver ticket…a ticket to ride, so hurry home to me”

      It’s not so much the singing, human voice is an instrument too (I can enjoy singing in foreign languages), it’s the introduction of a narrative, a story, that I find intrusive. Even if I don’t follow with the lyrics, they are still there. A song lyric defeats the concept of collective improvisation that is the beating heart of jazz. The musicians become a backing band for the song. It’s certainly music, and there is room for all sorts of music in the world, but to my mind it’s not “jazz”…

      People are welcome to different opinions (well argued, of course!)


      • It is the arch, mannered and over-egged nature of the way that many Jazz vocalists phrase their contributions that I particularly dislike. As for scat, let’s not even go there. Mind you, I’m a fan of Jazz tambourine (as on Don Wilkerson’s Preach Brother! set). So each to their own poison, I suppose.


        • Let’s not forget overlook inspired innovation – Dolphy and bass clarinet – added a new a creative instrumental voice, yo!. But tambourine? Hey Mister Tambourine man… I struggle with jazz harp, euphonium, tuba, arco-bass, flute, all sorts of limited vocabulary musical straight-jacket instruments. They don’t liberate emotional expression, they constrict it, mechanically. Just my point of view, the tenor saxophone remains the ultimate voice of musical expression. Except possibly for the trumpet. That is an argument for another day.


          • Just teasing. It is delightful to hear a new or unexpected instrument, played well. No need to confines ourselves to just one flavour when we can gobble up the whole Opal Fruits rainbow.
            I remember being knocked out by a band called Microgroove, at Dingwall’s during the dance Jazz revival in the early 90’s. Their unique contribution was that they used a tuba and other brass instruments to deliver an incredible bass line, instead of a string bass.
            The bass clarinet, in capable hands, has a wonderful sound too, as you so rightly state. Until very recently, I wouldn’t have gone near anything by Alice Coltrane, but, thankfully my interest in Pharoah Sanders and stuff on Impulse, took me into that territory.
            However, if anyone likes the sanctified Baptist sound, look no further than Don Wilkerson’s ‘Camp Meeting’ and ‘Dem Tambourines’.


            • Tambourines are perfectly fitting in a genuinely vocal (gospel, spiritual…) setting, but I don’t need them in a jazz context. As for a “Baptist” sound in jazz, I prefer it lean and, yes, sophisticated – such as Slide Hampton’s “Sister Salvation” or, in a way, some parts of Oliver Nelson’s “Blues And The Abstract Truth”. These pieces still have all the emotional power you want, and more.


        • I think so-called “jazz singing” – even that I like, such as Billie Holiday – is more properly classified as pop music, not jazz. The only real “jazz” signing is scat – which is the absolute worst – or vocalese, which can be enjoyable from the right people (Eddie Jefferson) in very small doses, but even vocalese copies an original instrumental jazz improvisation, so it’s not really original improvised jazz either. I hate it when a lounge singer is classified as jazz just because he or she sings in front of an acoustic trio that – without the singer – could improvise jazz.

          There are certainly wonderful records on which my favorite jazz musicians improvise solos in concert with a pop singer, such as the Coltrane and Hartman LP, or the Emarcy Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown LP. Or the late-period Billie Holiday small group sessions on Clef. But sticking a singer in front of a jazz group doesn’t necessarily make the performance “jazz.” Which is perfectly OK, but the classification needs to change, I think. Anyone else pained when the SiriusXM Real Jazz channel plays a Dexter Gordon Blue Note classic, immediately followed by a current “jazz” singer just twittering an oldie pop standard? I always think: “move that song over to the oldies pop channel and play some Coltrane!”


  3. i never much cared for ANY vocal jazz, save for leon thomas and jeann lee. i love horace silver more and more these days. i will keep an eye out for this.


  4. The vocal version is ghastly, indeed. But for sheer masochism, I would recommend listening to the version he did with singer Andy Bey.


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