Following the death of Horace Silver on June 18, Bill Kirchner called my attention to trumpeter John McNeil’s remembrance of his time in Silver’s quintet in the late 1970s. It appears on the New Music Box website. McNeil’s essay gives insights into traits and practices that formed Silver’s leadership qualities. For one thing, he insisted that his sidemen be on time. If they weren’t, he fined them twenty-five dollars.
The on-time rule also applied to getting back to the bandstand after a break. I ran afoul of this one time when I had been busy at the bar, chatting up a member of the opposite sex. All of a sudden I heard Horace play a little arpeggio and realized everyone was on the bandstand but me. I rushed up on stage and as I went by the piano, Horace, without looking up, said, “Twenty-five bucks. Good lookin’ though.”
The thing is, being on time wasn’t just some rigid rule of his. What really mattered to Horace was that being late and keeping other musicians waiting was disrespectful.
To read all of McNeil’s recollection of his formative time with Silver, go here. His concluding anecdote speaks volumes about Horace’s moral integrity.
For Rifftides thoughts about Silver’s importance, see this, posted the day after his passing