This song really sums up the whole ’60s Blue Note sound for me, which is one of my favourite jazz labels which was at its peak in its first incarnation when jazz was, to my ears, at its most vital. There’s just a comfortable groove set here, clearly thanks to Horace Silver’s interest in putting across more than a standard set of what his audience expected of him. This piece goes well beyond just an excuse for his guys to slap down a bunch of dexterous solos. Here, the instruments sound more like singers, conveying the melody in cooperation. And as such, it’s all the stronger for it.
Horace Silver had been an active musician since the early 50s, playing some legendary dates with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Later, he formed a version of the Jazz Messengers himself. But, by the 1960s, Silver had become interested in other forms, particularly in bossa nova music. This interest sprung partially from a recent tour of Brazil.
But, it also came out of his own heritage, since he was born on the island of Maio, Cape Verde which is also a Portuguese-derived culture much like Brazil, and whose folk music is similar even if it is thousands of miles away. This piece was Silver’s attempt to capture the music of his youth, in which his dad and their relatives would play music in informal sessions at family get-togethers – hence the title of this piece.
Where Silver had been one of the architects of the hard bop strain of jazz, his interest in capturing all kinds of textures while largely ignoring his obligations to genre continued in earnest after creating this, his signature piece. Much like labelmate Cannonball Adderley, Silver would make soul and r&b albums which confounded his jazz audience. And because of his reach as an artist, he was able to influence many in the pop world too, not the least of whom was Steely Dan who borrowed the opening of “Song For My Father” for their 1974 hit “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”.
Even after Blue Note went on hiatus, Silver continued to explore different genres well into the 1980s and ’90s. Horace Silver is an active musician today.
To get the latest news, you gotta get on down to the official Horace Silver website.
[UPDATE: June 18, 2014: Horace Silver passed away today at age 85. Rest in peace, and thanks.]