About a week ago, at a gig, someone told me Horace Silver had just died. I must admit that my immediate reaction was surprise: I’d assumed he’d died years ago. It turns out we were both wrong: Horace lives.
For some reason that has yet to be explained, a number of jazz sites and discussion boards last week carried the exaggerated news of the pianist’s death, and many have since published grovelling apologies. So Mr Silver, the founding-father of hard-bop and jazz-funk, joins the surprisingly long list (headed, of course by Mark Twain) of people who lived to read their own obituaries.
Strangely, that list includes another jazz pianist, Michael ‘Dodo’ Marmarosa (who’d worked with many of the great swing bands before joining Charlie Parker): his obituary appeared in a number of newspapers in 1992, ten years before his actual death. The explanation was that a persistent fan of his records – a Briton who lived in the Pittsburgh area where Dodo was leading a reclusive life – kept telephoning him to ask about the details of old recordings and demanding an interview. In order to put an end to this intrusion, Marmarosa answered the telephone with an assumed voice and announced that “Mr Marmarosa passed away yesterday”.
Anyway, back to Horace: here’s his big hit from 1964/5, Song For My Father, and if it sounds vaguely familiar to non-fans of jazz, that may be because the opening bass piano notes were borrowed by Steely Dan for their song Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, while the opening horn riff was borrowed by Stevie Wonder for his song Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing: