A Moment in Time: Miles Davis and Horace Silver, 1954

July 5th, 2014


From his autobiography, Miles Davis recalls his experience meeting and playing with the recently deceased pianist Horace Silver in 1954, a point in time following Miles kicking heroin.  Silver played on Rudy Van Gelder-engineered recording sessions with Miles at the time of this Alfred Lion photograph that were released on Miles Davis Volume 3 for Blue Note, and Miles Davis Quartet for Prestige.


The scene in New York had changed since I’d been gone. The MJQ — Modern Jazz Quartet — was big on the music scene then; the kind of “cool” chamber jazz thing they were doing was getting over big. People were still talking about Chet Baker and Lennie Tristano and George Shearing, all that stuff that came out of Birth of the Cool. Dizzy was still playing great as ever, but Bird was all fucked up — fat, tired, playing badly when he bothered to show up for anything. The managers of Birdland even barred him from there after he got into a shouting match with one of the owners — and Birdland had been named for him.

All I could think of when I came back to New York was playing music and making records and making up for all the time I had lost. The first two albums I made that year — Miles Davis, Vol. 2 for Blue Note and Miles Davis Quartet for Prestige — were very important to me. The Prestige contract had not gone into effect yet, that’s why I could make the Blue Note date with Alfred Lion, which I needed to do because my money was still short. I felt I had come on strong on those records. I got Art Blakey on drums, Percy Heath from the MJQ on bass, and a young piano player named Horace Silver, who had been playing with Lester Young and Stan Getz. I think Art Blakey turned me on to Horace, because he knew him real well. Horace was staying at the same hotel I was staying in – the Arlington Hotel on 25th near Fifth – so we got to know each other well. Horace had an upright piano in his room where I would play and compose songs. He was a little younger than me, three or four years younger I think. I used to tell him a few things and show him some shit on the piano. I liked the way Horace played piano, because he had this funky shit that I liked a lot at that time. He put fire up under my playing and with Art on drums you couldn’t be fucking around; you had to get on up and play. But I had Horace playing like Monk on that first album with “Well, You Needn’t” and a ballad accompaniment on “It Never Entered My Mind.” We also did “Lazy Susan.”

Excerpted from Miles:  The Autobiography, by Miles Davis with Quincy Troupe


“It Never Entered My Mind”

Share this:

5 comments on “A Moment in Time: Miles Davis and Horace Silver, 1954”

  1. And soon after this (?) came the great “Walkin”” session, with Horace collaborating so well in the Miles Davis evolution.

    One of the many reasons I want to buy and re-read Horace Silver’s wonderful memoirs
    (“Let’s Get to the Nitty Gritty’) is to read Horace’s memories of that period.

    God Bless Horace Silver for all he gave the world so generously !

  2. I have this information from Davis’s Autobiography (Quincy Troupe). What a wonderful
    man this Silver was ! Regretfully, he suffered from Alz. in his later life. R.I.P.

    Girish Trivedi

    1. Amen.

      I have gradually tried to acquire as much of Horace’s vast works,
      (I think I have most (!), as my limited resources have allowed.
      And in the 90s (?), Horace released “The Hard Bop GrandPop”
      and “Prescription for the Blues” CDs. He was still at the very top of
      his game, lifting bands magically to his level.

      Horace Silver proved that the Truth is worth repeating in different ways,
      and it can always come out “original.”

      May I repeat a thought I had when I heard of his passing, via the Rifftides
      site. I just feel like saying it again:

      A genius of the highest order, a genius of simplicity, honesty,
      and clarity. Such diverse works, arrangements, and interpretations,
      and always with his personal Silver stamp, immediately recognizable
      by all. Horace Silver had an infinite fund of beautiful musical thoughts,
      each so simple that it’s amazing no one else could have thought of them.

      So many greats did their best work using his material, and so many
      honed their skills in his bands.

      When you hear one of his tunes, you can’t get it out of your mind.

      And that’s a good thing.

      Thank you, Horace Silver.

        1. What a great tribute to Horace Silver from JJM ( !), and what a great clip of HS Quintet, which I am listening to as I type this,

          The way Horace accompanies the other soloists is ALWAYS IN THERE with them, and such a demonstration of his infectious, generous spirit. Here’s a quote from Horace I saw on pages 123-124 of Len Lyons’ THE GREAT JAZZ PIANISTS:

          “I think a piano player has to like to comp to do it well. If you’re preoccupied with soloing ,if you’re sitting up there halfway feeding the horns, waiting for your turn to solo, you won’t be a good comper…I love the feeling I get when the rhythm section is really getting it together …we’ve got the horns in the palms of our hands…We’ve got to raise our hands and uplift
          them to the sky. See, the music’s got to float…”

          ..and he goes on to say that you have to love to solo or you should just play with a trio.The nice thing is, Horace Silver Trio numbers are an unappreciated highlight of his career.The Horace Silver Blue Note sessions with Gene Ramey and Art Blakey in 1952 and 53
          are so deep..And every HS Quintet album I can think of has one Trio number, usually a profound ballad original. So thoughtful. Deep as the ocean.

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records co-founder, is interviewed about his successful career as a jazz producer, discographer, and entrepreneur...Also in this issue, in celebration of Blue Note’s 80th year, we asked prominent writers and musicians the following question: “What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums; a new collection of jazz poetry; “On the Turntable,” is a new playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings from six artists – Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian and Aaron Burnett; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Jazz History Quiz”; a new feature called “Pressed for All Time,”; a new photo-narrative by Charles Ingham; and…lots more.

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings by six artists -- Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano. Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian, and Aaron Burnett


In this month’s collection, with great jazz artists at the core of their work, 16 poets remember, revere, ponder, laugh, dream, and listen

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob presents two stories, one on Clifford Brown (featuring the trumpeter Charlie Porter) and the other is part two of his program on stride piano, including a conversation with Mike Lipskin

Short Fiction

Short Fiction Contest-winning story #51 — “Crossing the Ribbon,” by Linnea Kellar

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

In an excerpt from his book Pressed for All Time, Michael Jarrett interviews producer Creed Taylor about how he came to use tape overdubs during the 1957 Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross Sing a Song of Basie recording session


“Thinking about the Truesdells” — a photo-narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.


Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.


Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Coming Soon

"The Photography Issue" will feature an interview with jazz photographer Carol Friedman (her photo of Wynton Marsalis is pictured), as well as with Michael Cuscuna on unreleased photos by Blue Note's Francis Wolff.

In the previous issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive