Horace Silver

Live at Newport '58 (Blue Note)

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The first thing one notices about Live at Newport '58 is the sound quality. In a jazz world defined at the fidelity extremes by pristine Rudy Van Gelder remasters of legendary studio sessions and near-bootleg-sounding live performances listenable due only to their rarity, this previously unreleased concert from the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival is shocking indeed. With stunning clarity that articulates every inventive move that Silver's hands make at the piano, the release of this disc would be notable if only for the audiophile standard it sets. But there's far more value to this four-song concert than its stereo-calibrating ability. Silver was a masterful improviser, but he thought that concerts should be left in the performance hall and that recording studios were built for a reason. As such, he was notedly disdainful of the idea of live recordings, and the only concert he authorized to be released before this one was 1961's Doin' the Thing. It's hard to imagine, though, that upon hearing both the strength of this performance and the fidelity with which is was captured, it took much convincing to get him to sign off on this one. The 40-minute set consists of but four songs, including "Cool Eyes," "Señor Blues," and its equally swinging (and somewhat obscure) single flipside, "Tippin'." Also worth noting is the presence of all-but-unknown trumpeter Louis Smith in one of his few recorded appearances.

 
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