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Let's Get to the Nitty Gritty: The Autobiography of Horace Silver Hardcover – March 15, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Silver's contributions as pianist, producer, bandleader, composer and lyricist have catapulted him into the pantheon of jazz legends. Finding an "inner source of inspiration" for his music in dreams, tea kettle whistles, cricket chirps and the spirit world, Silver is an innovator whose musical influences include the blues as well as gospel, Latin, symphonic, Broadway shows and folk music. Painting a colorful backdrop of the jazz scene over six decades, Silver reveals the events behind songs like "Señor Blues" and "Song for My Father" as he traces his musical development from his youth in Norwalk, Conn. Following gigs in high school, he toured with Stan Getz, arriving in New York to team with top talents on club dates, recording sessions and radio broadcasts. In 1952, he began a 28-year association with Blue Note Records and then ran Silveto, his own independent record label, during the 1980s. Silver, now 78, has an astonishing recall of every musician he ever encountered, prompting plenty of anecdotes amid the solid self-insights. The critical afterword by Pastras (Dead Man Blues) analyzes Silver's "steadfast refusal to let a groove become a rut." 17 b&w photos not seen by PW. (Mar. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"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"

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 282 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; First Edition edition (March 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520243749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520243743
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,132,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I found this book very boring.
Jack Grassel
This is a good book for fans of Horace Silver as he tells many stories of his life and his dealings and meetings with many musicians as well as the friends he had.
Charles E. Rey
Well worthwhile read for any jazz enthusiast.
Michael L. Slavin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 36 people found the following review helpful By George Kaplan on March 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The LAST thing this book does is get to the nitty-gritty. Primarily a string of recollections and anecdotes, this light-as-a-feather book hardly constitutes a proper biography for such an important (and still breathing) figure in the pantheon of jazz.

Pastras' research seems to have consisted of going over to Horace's house every Sunday for bull sessions. And that's how the book reads. There are the expected misspellings and typos (Wilt Chamberlin, Carl Burnette, et al) and multiple repetitions of events.

The ARE some interesting tidbits buried here as Horace can be quite the raconteur. His story about Dizzy Gillespie's visit to his apartment is touching and his story about being unable to sit in for Otis Spann because he couldn't play the blues in Muddy's key signature was both amusing and alarming. Horace not able to play the blues??? His multiple brushes with racism, drug enforcement and police power are chilling.

But mostly the book is a name-dropper's paradise, recounting all of the famous and semi-famous celebrities our boy has met over the past 50 years. He sure has a steel-trap memory! But why he would exhibit such excitement about a chance sighting of a has-been former actress walking her dog in Central Park and then need to recount it in his autobiography 40 years later is beyond me.

The curious reader will search in vain for clues to his musical talent (other than tea kettle whistles and the like). Very few of his compositions are even mentioned much less subjected to some sort of analysis. Other than Tyrone Washington, for whom he saves some choice invective, very few of his colleagues are discussed in detail, including incredibly Art Blakey. This relationship should have occupied a full chapter. What about Joe Henderson?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Francis Lannie on April 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
I was really looking forward to starting this book. I have quite a few of Horace's albums and really like them and was looking forward to reading about his long career.

Disappointingly, I have to agree with one of the other reviewers that there is a lot of listing of personnel in bands for no other reason than listing them. Very rarely do we get any kind of critique or analysis of any aspect of his life. It reads as if Phil Pastras simply transcribed audio tapes of Horace recounting anecdotes and did no more than ensure that the anecdotes were in chronological order. After the first 100 pages I found it to be very repetitive/formulaic - a brief description of a gig/album session, listing of the personnel, Horace is grateful for the life he has.

No offence to Horace, but if I have to read one more time about how he 'married Lady Music' and how music is his life...

A squandered opportunity, this was a chance to pass something of real substance on to the younger generations from someone who truly forged a unique path/sound in a crowded artform.

I was thinking about getting his book on small combo playing but, based on this, I am worried that I'll regret buying it. I think I'll wait for the moment.

Sorry Horace.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By W. Bradley on January 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't think I can say much about Horace that hasn't already been said other than he is my primary musical influence. I love his compositions and I love his approach to the piano. I consider him as a "father of funk" as well as hard bop. I was so happy that someone got a chance to speak with Horace in depth before he leaves us. I already deeply regret that I will most likely never get a chance to see him perform live. I highly recommend his autobiography to any true fan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Parham on December 13, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you're a died in the wool jazz fan like I am, you'll linger over every word that Horace wrote, even though it's terribly mundane. The descriptions of working with Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Miles, Art Blakey are priceless. Less so is the extra information about how his doctor gave him a shot of penicillin which caused an allergic reaction but the doctor was smart and had the antidote at hand and so saved Horace's life.

This could have been written by a high school student, but if it was, the teacher would have critiqued it and insisted that the writer make it a little more readable with descriptions, personal insights, etc which are missing here. Did I say that Horace's verses are insipid? almost "roses are red".

What really ruined it for me was the large afterword by the ghost writer Phil Pastras. he starts off by relishing the wonderful playing by Woody Shaw on "Song for my Father"!!!!!!!!!(Carmel Jones was the trumpet player on that track). If they can't even get that right....
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gilbert W. Crampton on April 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Horace Silver's book reads like a Horace Silver piano solo sounds. This is a down to earth statement about the life and times of a "Jazz Messenger" and survivor of one of the most creative and undocumented eras of Black Music. Horace gives us first hand accounts of what it was like to perform with Sonny Stitt, Art Blakey, Stan Getz, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Big Nick, Lockjaw Davis, Kenny Clarke and many others. His anecdotes, like his quoting of different tunes during his piano solos, are often humorous and relevant to his central theme, the joys and hardships of life and music. I loved the book from beginning to end. I recommend it along with "RACE MUSIC", by GUthrie P. Ramsey, JR, and "Miles the Autobiography" by Quincy Troupe to all who are interested in the history of African American music and history in the post WWII era.
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