Horace Silver is one of the last giants remaining from the incredible flowering and creative extension of bebop music that became known as "hard bop" in the 1950s. This freewheeling autobiography of the great composer, pianist, and bandleader takes us from his childhood in Norwalk, Connecticut, through his rise to fame as a musician in New York, to his comfortable life “after the road” in California. During that time, Silver composed an impressive repertoire of tunes that have become standards and recorded a number of classic albums. Well-seasoned with anecdotes about the music, the musicians, and the milieu in which he worked and prospered, Silver’s narrative—like his music—is earthy, vernacular, and intimate. His stories resonate with lessons learned from hearing and playing alongside such legends as Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young. His irrepressible sense of humor combined with his distinctive spirituality make his account both entertaining and inspiring. Most importantly, Silver’s unique take on the music and the people who play it opens a window onto the creative process of jazz and the social and cultural worlds in which it flourishes.
Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty also describes Silver’s spiritual awakening in the late 1970s. This transformation found its expression in the electronic and vocal music of the three-part work called The United States of Mind and eventually led the musician to start his own record label, Silveto. Silver details the economic forces that eventually persuaded him to put Silveto to rest and to return to the studios of major jazz recording labels like Columbia, Impulse, and Verve, where he continued expanding his catalogue of new compositions and recordings that are at least as impressive as his earlier work.
foreword Joe Zawinul
chapter one Childhood
chapter two Dreaming My Dreams: Teenage Years
chapter three Lady Music and the Messengers: Early Adult Years
chapter four The Quintet
chapter five Westward Bound: Middle Years
chapter six Off the Merry-Go-Round: Later Years
afterword Phil Pastras
discography Eric B. Olsen
recordings honoring Horace Silver
a select bibliography of music publications
Horace Silver was born in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1928. He now lives in Malibu, California. Phil Pastras is Assistant Professor of English at Pasadena City College and author of Dead Man Blues: Jelly Roll Morton Way Out West (California, 2002).
“Silver’s good nature is one of the book’s chief attractions. The reader feels like a rookie musician riding a tour bus with an established master who mixes nuggets of musical wisdom and name-dropping with. . . nitty gritty language.—Coda
“His personal revelations may surprise even his most ardent fans. . . .The tone of the book is conversational, rather than literary, and editor Phil Pastras allows Silver’s voice to ring true throughout. It’s full of anecdotes and the portraits of Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, Miles Davis and Bud Powell are insightful and entertaining, as is the account of the inner workings of Blue Note Records.”—Downbeat
“Contains some excellent primary source material on the genesis of modern jazz.”—Jazz Times
“A welcome addition to any jazz collection.”—Library Journal
“Silver, now 78, has an astonishing recall of every musician he ever encountered, prompting plenty of anecdotes amid the solid self-insights.”—Publishers Weekly
"As one of the major figures in the history of jazz, Horace Silver's reminiscences are priceless. Simply put, the man is a national treasure. Horace's sensitivity, passions and creative sources emerge in this engaging book, a tribute to his determination and to Phil Pastras' skill and sensitivity as an editor. It will be celebrated by jazz scholars and fans everywhere."—Steven Isoardi, author of The Dark Tree and Central Avenue Sounds
"Horace Silver stands as one of the last 'jazz giants' remaining from the incredible efflorescence of bebop-based music in the 1950s. For that reason alone his book would be an important contribution. But this is more than a mere memoir of a golden age long past. Silver's prose style is much like his musical style: earthy, vernacular, populist. His unique take on the music and the people who play it provides valuable insights into the creative processes of jazz and the social and cultural worlds in which jazz musicians live and work. His recounts of the lessons learned from listening to and playing alongside Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, Jimmie Lunceford, and Lester Young, as well as many lesser-known figures, are particularly revealing."—David Ake, author of Jazz Cultures