Horace Silver was born Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva on September 2, 1928, in Norwalk Connecticut. Shortly afterwards, his father changed the family last name to Silver.
As a child, his father taught him the folk music of his native Cape Verde and his mother sang in a local church choir. In his recordings these can be heard, along with Gospel, African and Latin-American rhythms. Originally, he played Tenor Saxophone (influenced by Lester Young), but then switched to piano (influenced by Bud Powell).
Silver’s big break came in 1950, while performing at the Sunset Club in Hartford Connecticut, backing up saxophonist Stan Getz, who liked the sound of Silver’s band so much that he took them on the road with him. It was with Getz that Silver made his recording debut, on the album The Stan Getz Quartet.
1. “Penny” (1951)
Later in 1951, Silver moved to New York City. On Monday nights, he would perform at the famous Birdland jazz club, where various musicians would arrive and informally jam together. During that year, while working as a sideman there, he met several executives from the Blue Note label and eventually signed with them, an association that lasted for nearly thirty years.
Shortly afterwards, Silver co-founded Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where he remained for four years.