No need for rehearsal in Silver tribute


The great Horace Silver was the beneficiary of one of Christian McBride's killer tribute programs Wednesday at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, including a postconcert Q&A session in which a basic truth about the distinguished musician came out.

That was when Charles Tolliver, one of the three Silver alumni trumpet players on the program, was asked whether the lack of rehearsal had proved a handicap for the recital of the great man's works.

Tolliver's answer was firmly in the negative.

"No," he said, and stated his reason: "Horace Silver is the hippest jazz musician, just about as hip as Charlie Parker. Everything he wrote is super-hip. Once you learn to play it, you don't need a rehearsal."

Evidence in favor of this gnomic assertion had just concluded with the performance of Silver's signature composition, "Song for My Father." The 10 savvy old beboppers who played it had been gathered by McBride, the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Carolyn and William Powers creative chair for jazz, who cooks up the exemplary jazz programming for the Disney Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.

They had all taken wise and splendid choruses, playing as masterfully Wednesday as they wanted to play when they were members of one of Silver's bands in the middle of the last century.

Silver's music, with its percussive piano underpinning, has been called the thinking man's rock, but as Tolliver hinted, it is a lot more than that. You became conscious that a haunting, unforgettable tune like "Song for My Father" ranks certainly with such Duke Ellington classics as "Mood Indigo" or "Caravan."

Seated in his wheelchair in the audience was Silver, 78, who calls himself the hardbop grandpop, listening as the three front lines gave their interpretations of 10 of the works on which his rep is founded. Each was received with hearty applause from the virtually full house. Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater got a similar reception.

The hip-switching "Senor Blues" gave Tom Harrell a place for brilliant trumpet elaborations, and you began to see more clearly after all these years that there is a subtle rhythmic current and undeniable harmonic motion in Silver's work that beguiles the mind while it charms the foot.

Trumpeter Randy Brecker also worked the brilliant side of the street, but it was Tolliver who seemed to get closest to the heart of the matter. He played straight from the hip, not trying to impress, but doing the musical work as though he were sitting in somebody's kitchen on a Saturday night.

Three great tenor saxophonists discovered by Silver — Benny Maupin, George Coleman and Joe Lovano — managed to keep soul in the bowl without yielding a jot of their virtuoso prowess. McBride, pianist Cedar Walton and drummer Roger Humphries were tirelessly lovable in the soloists' support.

When Silver was a kid, according to his autobiography, he used to love a couple of soups that the lady down the street prepared. One was made from chicken feet and the other from the neckbones.

In that light, when you heard the songs "Doodlin'‚" or "Sister Sadie" or "Filthy McNasty," with their irresistibly joyful tunes made out of nothing special, you began to feel you'd gotten a little deeper into the work of this immortal American musician.