Horace Silver (born September 2, 1928), born Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva in Norwalk, Connecticut, is an American jazz pianist and composer. His father, who was known as John Tavares Silva, was from the island of Maio in Cape Verde. His mother was born in New Canaan, Connecticut and was of Irish-African descent. Silver is known for his distinctive humorous and funky playing style and for his pioneering compositional contributions to hard bop. Silver was influenced by a wide range of musical styles, notably gospel music, African music, and Latin American music and sometimes ventured into the soul jazz genre.
Silver began his career as a tenor saxophonist but later switched to piano. His tenor saxophone playing was highly influenced by Lester Young, and his piano style by Bud Powell. Silver was discovered in the Sundown Club in Hartford, Connecticut in 1950 by saxophonist Stan Getz. Getz was playing at the club with Silver’s trio backing him up. Getz liked Silver’s band and brought them on the road, eventually recording three of Silver’s compositions. It was Getz with whom Silver made his recording debut.
He moved to New York City in 1951, where he worked at the jazz club Birdland on Monday nights, when different musicians would come together and informally jam. During that year he met the executives of the label Blue Note while working as a sideman. He eventually signed with them where he remained until 1980. It was in New York that he formed The Jazz Messengers, a co-operatively run group with Art Blakey.