My Favorites (Jazz): “Room 608” by Horace Silver and The Jazz Messengers
When I was learning jazz in high school this song was like a difficult tongue twister to try and learn. There were many twists and turns as well as moving parts that make up this tune. Aside from having a lot of notes to play in a short space of time this tune also had a tricky introduction and ending. It is a modified rhythm changes meaning that the bridge is a little different from the regular chord changes to the song “I Got Rhythm.”
It’s from the 1954 Blue Note recording Horace Silver and The Jazz Messengers which became Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, then later just The Jazz Messengers.
The focus of The Jazz Messengers was to bring the blues back to jazz after it had become too intellectual and abstract after the Bebop and Cool Jazz movements. This style of jazz became known as Hard Bop and incorporated bluesy, gospel sounds as well as shout choruses and hip arrangements to keep listeners engaged and bopping their heads.
If you listen to Horace Silver’s comping style behind the soloists, you can hear his signature piano style of playing blues licks and background riff figures which was different from the piano voicings of other pianists like Red Garland and Bud Powell. He also has a heavily punctuated rhythmic style of comping his own solo. He has a definite concept of separating the right hand to play lines and melodies from the left hand’s duty of playing chords and rhythm.
Notwithstanding, trumpeter Kenny Dorham and saxophonist Hank Mobley are definitely playing some amazing ideas inside of their solos and drummer Art Blakey and bass player Doug Watkins are cookin’ like a summer barbecue. I always love Art Blakey’s fills that seem to drive the soloist to play more and make the song reach higher heights. He also has such melodic solos himself that you can actually sing his drum solos.
The Jazz Messengers became one of the major schools of jazz musicians. From Jackie McLean to Kenny Garrett and Lee Morgan to Wynton Marsalis, the alumni of The Jazz Messengers reads like a who’s who of modern jazz. It is indeed a treat to go back and listen to the early foundations of this trend-setting group.