Officer Material; Night & Day

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), July 7, 1996 | Go to article overview

Officer Material; Night & Day


Byline: ADAM LIVELY;JEFFREY RICHARDS;RUPERT CHRISTIANSEN

Horace Silver may sound like a character from a Victorian boys' adventure story, but he is actually one of America's leading jazz pianists, with a pedigree that goes back 40 years to famous recordings made in the Fifties with the likes of Miles Davis and Hank Mobley. Taking justifiable pride in being a living part of jazz history, he has called his latest album The Hardbop Grandpop (Impulse! 11922), an accolade not to be sniffed at.

In the liner notes he has written to accompany the CD, he comes across as a thoroughly engaging character. `I have known several ladies from Johannesburg,' he tells us cryptically, `the song The Lady From Johannesburg is inspired by the memory of one of them.' Another song was `inspired by the whistling of my teakettle. One day, while preparing a cup of tea, I observed the tones that my teakettle was emanating and went to the piano and developed a tune from them. Music is everywhere. You just have to listen for it.'

Actually, all this talk of emanating teakettles is a little misleading, because there's nothing in the least weird or mystical about Horace Silver's music. He's still purveying the kind of funky, blues-drenched and gospel-tinged modern jazz which first made his name - and which has been taken up by a younger audience. In fact Silver practically invented the term `funky', as it applied to jazz. One of his most famous bop anthems from the Fifties is the grandly titled Opus De Funk.

There are some more-than-competent solos on this album from the likes of Michael Brecker (sax) and Ray Brown (bass), but what sticks in the memory are Silver's catchy themes, which will no doubt be taken up by other musicians. He has even provided words to go with them, though I think the decision not to have someone singing them may have been a wise one. Back to that teakettle:

My teakettle's made of metal

and she loves to do her thing.

I get very transcendental

whenever she begins to sing.

Like, that's really deep.

Ronnie Scott's club in London may

feature a well-worn roster of big-name Americans as its main attractions, but the support-act slot still provides an excellent showcase for local musicians such as the Steve Melling Trio. Now the Ronnie Scott recording label has issued a debut album by the young British pianist, Trio, Duo, Solo (JHCD 045), and a classy one it is. In fact Melling's style isn't a million miles from that of Horace Silver, with a touch of Oscar Peterson and McCoy Tyner thrown in.

Like the latter two - and like Monty Alexander, another regular guest at Ronnie's - Melling has the natural expansiveness of gesture necessary to project the piano as a solo instrument. On Janas Delight he digs deep to find some awesomely sonorous harmonies, while the set ends with a dreamy rendition of one of Leonard Bernstein's loveliest tunes, Some Other Time.

Altogether it's stylish musical entertainment.

OFFICER MATERIAL

Jack Hawkins was the nearest the British cinema in its heyday came to producing its own Clark Gable or John Wayne, a man whose craggy presence and gravel voice suggested the integrity and determination of the tough and dedicated professional.

Hawkins, born in 1910, started work as a child actor in the Twenties, eventually graduating to juvenile leads. He made his film debut in Birds Of Prey (1930) but the stage dominated his career during the Thirties. After the war, he became a dependable character actor in such films as Bonnie Prince Charlie and The Fallen Idol.

Two films in 1952 catapulted him to stardom. Angels One Five (1952, U, [pounds sterling]9.99) was an indelible evocation of the heroic myth of the Battle of Britain - all fresh-faced boyish pilots and `tally-ho' air battles. …

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