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Live At Newport '58 (1958)

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Junior Cook

With their 1956 Blue Note classic 6 Pieces of Silver, the Horace Silver Quintet had helped establish hard bop as the most exciting new direction in jazz in some years. Only two members of that group, saxophonist Junior Cook and drummer Louis Hayes, remained with pianist Silver when the Quintet took the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958, and as formidable as the lineup on that record had been, the additions of Louis Smith on trumpet and Gene Taylor on bass for the Newport session gave the Quintet a new ferocity that was only hinted at two years earlier. Smith's tenure in the band was relatively short-lived (he would soon be replaced by Blue Mitchell), and his playing on this date is monstrous, making the discovery of this long-lost, incendiary live set that much more significant. Smith's soloing here is economical yet full of panache, and when he and Cook meet up the sound radiates both coolness and fire, as paradoxical as that may seem. Taylor and Hayes are the model for small group jazz, tight but always one step ahead. And Silver, of course, is pure mastery throughout. There are only four tunes performed here, two of them, "Cool Eyes" and "Señor Blues," are the highlights of the 1956 masterwork. The latter closes out the set and never lets up: Silver, in his extended, perfectly realized solo, buries himself deep within the melody, explores its every nuance, peeks outside of it, and finds his way back in. The saxophone and trumpet offerings are thrill-packed and the bassist and drummer make sweet but dynamic statements. "Tippin'," which opens the show, had, improbably, been the B-side of a 45 rpm single, but here it's a grand tribute to the art of the groove, an exercise in funk long before that term became ubiquitous. It swings madly, lyrical and vibrant, reminding once again why Horace Silver has been, for more than 50 years, one of the defining names in jazz piano, as well as a bandleader who always knew how to get more out of his crew. Silver's only official live recording, Doin' the Thing (At the Village Gate), would be released in 1961, three years after this Newport date, making this the earliest complete Silver live show in circulation. Which pretty much says all that needs to be said. ~ Jeff Tamarkin