May 28, 2016

Horace Silver - Doin' The Thing (1961)

Doin' The Thing, along with Song For My Father, is Horace Silver's best album. I also consider it one of the best of all time and an absolutely essential hard bop album. If Horace Silver was the father of hard bop and soul jazz then I guess that makes Art Blakey the mother. Seriously though, these two led the original fleet of Jazz Messengers in the mid-50s as some of the first jazz to be referred to as hard bop instead of be-bop. Silver provided the funk, Blakey brought the latin swing, and whatever horns they had on deck filled in the rest. Silver departed from the group early on to form his own quintet, mostly because, as Wikipedia tells it, heroin use was at an all-time high for the Jazz Messengers. Over a few years, the regular lineup for Silver's quintet was trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor Junior Cook, drummer Roy Brooks, and bassist Gene Taylor.

All of the quintet's recordings are great, but Doin' The Thing is something special. If I remember correctly, this is the only live session recorded and released for the group. Live bop recordings are always awesome because there is usually a lot more spice to a band's step than on studio sessions. The details of Rudy Van Gelder's engineering really shine for the live recordings as well, and that's a large part of what makes 50s and 60s jazz albums so memorable to me. For Ornette Coleman's At The Golden Circle, it's the way the ride cymbal is so piercing that makes the album a favorite. For Doin' The Thing, its the softness in the drums and especially in the hi-hat rhythms. The drums are still prominent, not lo-fi, and they just have texture to them which is perfect for Silver's funky, choppy style. Silver plays like a mad-man; I love the way he tinkers poised phrases on the upper keys and just slams the lowest notes for some incredible funk. Everywhere I see people credit James Brown for creating funk; yeeeeah, not a fucking chance. As usual, most of the pieces are Horace Silver originals, and damn does he have a knack for composing great melodies. Junior Cook and Blue Mitchell might not be on the level of Lee Morgan and John Coltrane combo on Blue Train, but they are intense and unique musicians that feed off of Silver's energy, and that's perfect for this album. In true Silver fashion, these songs start off smooth and cool and snowball into hard bop's finest cooking sessions. A very memorable record with a friendly vibe.