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The Horace Silver Project

The Horace Silver Project, Progress Theatre, Reading, Berkshire, 30/06/2023.

Photography: Photograph by Steve Foster.

by Trevor Bannister

July 06, 2023


How could anyone resist the powerful rhythmic drive of five virtuoso musicians at the top of their form playing music drenched with an intoxicating blend of bebop, blues, funky soul and gospel.

Jazz at Progress
Friday 30 June 2023

The Horace Silver Project:
Freddie Gavita trumpet and flugel horn, Clare Hirst tenor saxophone, Andrea Vicari piano, Marianne Windham bass, Matt Fishwick drums

An ‘end of term’ party atmosphere pervaded the Progress Theatre as the Horace Silver Project kicked-off the final Jazz at Progress gig of a hugely successful 2022/23 season with the unmistakeable tones of ‘Sister Sadie’. Bearing the distinctive hallmarks of pianist, composer, bandleader Horace Silver, the ‘Grandpop of Hardbop’ to whom the evening was dedicated, this piece immediately set toes tapping and heads nodding. How could anyone resist the powerful rhythmic drive of five virtuoso musicians at the top of their form playing music drenched with an intoxicating blend of bebop, blues, funky soul and gospel, tinged with a delicate flavouring
derived from Silver’s family roots in the Cape Verde Islands? Horace Silver introduced this new recipe for jazz on unsuspecting audiences well-nigh seventy years ago. Its appeal and potent effect remain as strong as ever.

Silver’s other great strength was in his choice of titles – simple, straight-forward, catchy and to coin a phrase, ‘They tell you exactly what’s in the tin!’

Pretty Eyes’, from the 1966 Blue Note album ‘Cape Verdean Blues’ is a good case in point; a beautifully lilting evocation of ‘pretty eyes’ conjured by Freddie Gavita’s lyrical flugel horn in combination with the warm tones of Clare Hirst’s tenor saxophone.

The scorching ‘Nica’s Dream’ moved up several gears to pay tribute to the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. This member of the Rothschild dynasty forsook her aristocratic lifestyle in Europe to become a patron to jazz musicians, notably Thelonious Monk – and cats (reputedly 306) – from her hotel suite in New York. Needless to say, this roller-coaster ride perfectly captured the spirit and eccentricity of this remarkable lady who once raced Miles Davis down Fifth Avenue in her pale-blue Bentley.

Andrea Vicari dug into her piano, especially hired for the occasion from Hickie’s Music Store, ably assisted by Marianne Windham’s bass and Matt Fishwick’s drums to generate some heavy- weight funk on ‘Jody Grind’, and to set up a launching pad for Gavita’s stratospheric trumpet. A truly Gospel ‘Amen’ brought this tremendous number to a close.

Clare Hirst took her place in the ‘pulpit’ to lead the sermon on ‘The Preacher’, Silver’s attempt to “reach back and get that old time, gutbucket bar-room feeling with just a taste of the backbeat”. In no time at all, Hirst had her congregation eating from her hand and dancing with their feet.

The joyfully exotic ‘Cape Verdean Blues’, featuring amongst its highlights Andrea Vicari at her most compelling and an outing both visually spectacular and brilliantly imaginative by Matt Fishwick on his drums, brought the first set to a dazzling close.

Horace Silver gladly accepted the affectionate moniker of ‘The Hardbop Grandpop’ and used it as the title track on his 1996 Impulse album which marked a return to the classic small group line-up after many years working with larger ensembles. It follows the jazz musicians’ time-honoured practice of creating a new melody over an existing chord progression - in this case via the old favourite ‘Indiana’ and its subsequent variation ‘Donna Lee’. It all made for a straightforward, nicely paced swinger with a standout bass solo from Marianne Windham.

Clare Hirst, who shared mc-ing duties with Andrea Vicari throughout the evening, cast a knowing glance at the audience when she announced that ‘this next number needs no introduction’. Indeed not. Eyes lit up with instant recognition as the quintet laid down the gently soulful introduction to ‘Song For My Father’, arguably Silver’s most beguiling and often played composition. Freddie Gavita soloed to great effect, the beautifully placed notes flowing with crystalline clarity.

In contrast to the fun and danceable good spirits so far expressed, the next two numbers, ‘Ecaroh’ and ‘Peace’ revealed the emotional depth of Horace Silver’s musical imagination. I found the dark edge of the first and the poignancy of the latter deeply moving.

‘Nutville’, on the other hand was a case of watching the touchpaper being lit ahead of the band taking-off on a voracious flight of invention. An explosive performance, especially in the percussion department where the ferocious complexity of Matt Fishwick’s drum patterns belied his otherwise gentle and thoughtful demeanour.

First recorded by the Silver quintet in 1954 and with lyrics later being added by Jon Hendricks, the bluesy ‘Doodlin’’ has been covered by just about everyone from Ray Charles to Dusty Springfield. A further reminder of Silver’s universal appeal and enduring legacy, it made the perfect choice to close a thoroughly entertaining and truly invigorating evening. All praise to the HORACE SILVER PROJECT and best wishes for future success. Promoters please note – THIS IS A FANTASTIC BAND!

As ever, thanks to the Progress Theatre, especially the Front of House Team headed by Stuart McCubbin and techno wizard Rich Saunders for sound and lighting. And a special thank you to our audience, particularly the youngsters we’ve welcomed recently. Your generous support makes it possible to continue presenting the very best of live jazz on the Progress stage.

Jazz at Progress will recommence on Friday 15 September when Pigfoot Plays Ellington. Chris Batchelor trumpet, James Allsopp baritone sax, Liam Noble piano and Paul Clarvis drums will present their unique interpretation of material drawn Duke Ellington’s fabulous repertoire.

‘An entertainingly riotous, swinging, delicate, gnarly account of Ellington’s legacy’ is promised.

Watch out for details on the Jazz in Reading website

Jazz at Progress
Sept 2023 – June 2024

Fri 15 Sep – Pigfoot Plays Ellington – Chris Batchelor trumpet, James Allsop baritone sax, Liam Noble piano, Paul Clarvis drums

Fri 6 Oct – Partners in Time – Historic Trumpet/Sax Partnerships with: Stuart Henderson trumpet, Karen Sharp saxes, Leon Greening piano, Raph Mizraki bass,Simon Price drums

Fri 10 Nov – Chris Biscoe plays Mike Westbrook - Chris Biscoe saxes, Kate Williams piano, Mike Outram guitar, Dave Whitford bass, drums tbc

Fri 22 Dec – Moscow Drug Club - Katya Gorrie vocals, Jonny Bruce trumpet, Mirek Salmon accordion, Andy Bowen guitar, Andy Crowdy bass

Fri 9 Feb – Jean Toussaint Quartet - Jean Toussaint tenor sax, Pete Billington piano, Paul Jefferies bass, Simon Price drums

Fri 22 Mar – International Trio led by Swiss supergroup Vein drummer Florian Arbenz with Jim Hart vibes, Percy Pursglove trumpet

Fri 10 May – Five-Way-Split - Quentin Collins trumpet, Vasilis Xenopoulos tenor sax, Rob Barron piano, Magyars Hofecker bass, Matt Home drums

Fri 21 Jun – The Gaz Hughes Trio: The Nuclear Bebopalypse Tour – Gaz Hughes drums, Andrzej Baranek piano, Gavin Barras double bass

Progress Theatre The Mount, off Christchurch Road RG1 5HL.
Tickets on sale online via the Progress Theatre website - - or at the theatre box office.
Bar open from 7.00pm.
For more details, or to join our mailing list, go to


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