Steve Beskrone -- player Steve Beskrone is one of the legends of Philadelphia music. There are folksongs celebrating him, how before he was 30 he was a veteran of both Ray Charles’ and Horace Silver’s bands. Beskrone played in Pat Martino’s band recently, a notoriously bad showcase for bass players.Skrone was the first guy I heard in Philly who was playing solos on a stringed instrument that I thought not only had all the harmonic content of what the horn (and piano) players had, but also a way of totally using everything about the instrument to its fullest expressive potential. He didn’t just play notes. He bent them, finessed them, vibratoed ‘em. Still does. He’s still one of the most no-joke guys you can go see. He’s also become one of the most effective and respected jazz performance teachers in town. He is, as the French say, very serious.Here he is on Saturday Night Live with Ray Charles in 1977. Sadly, he no longer has eith the Ronald McDonald afro nor the fu manchu mustache. Note also that Ray reunited his original horn section for this one. Those of you who think you know all the great bari sax players are urged to humble yourselves before Hog Cooper.But he still walks with a pocket so deep you can hide a Buick under his D string. THAT is what I mean by Philly music.”

— Skip Heller blog

Horace Silver Quintet, Live from Umbria Jazz Festival 1976 (2009)Horace Silver quintet live in Italy in 1976. Horace Silver Quintet, Live from Umbria Jazz Festival 1976  (2009)

Performers: Horace Silver Quintet, with Horace Silver on piano, Bob Berg on tenor saxophone, Tom Harrell on trumpet, Steve Beskrone on bass, and Eddie Gladden on drums
Director: Gianni Paggi
Studio: Arthaus Musik 107 039  [Distrib. by Naxos]  
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: PCM mono
Length: 51 min.
Rating: ****

Horace Silver is a jazz pianist who's easy to appreciate. He’s as adept at pounding out repetitive funky piano lines as he is at playing exquisite bossa nova melodies, and the fact that so many of his most famous songs have become standards speaks for itself. Further proof of his genius comes with the release of a concert his quintet gave in 1976 at the Umbria Jazz Festival. Featuring saxophonist Bob Berg, trumpeter Tom Harrell, bassist Steve Beskrone (who, according to the DVD liner notes, was just out of music school), and drummer Eddie Gladden, the group may have seemed relatively unknown to the Italian audience, but it’s clear why Silver chose them.

The dynamic among the horn sections becomes clear quite early, with Bob Berg, the extrovert player, lost in his own imaginary blowing contest, contrasted against a more reserved Tom Harrell, who plays careful focused solos. Berg’s a little too much of a show off for my taste, but his energy can’t be denied. Silver’s solos are things of beauty, utilizing repetition, counterpoint, and an exceptional melodic ear. On Pursuit of the 27th Man, drummer Gladden delivers a rousing drum solo, his sense of timing and control of the beat extraordinary.

The concert’s highlight is probably Pursuit of the 27th Man, a song based on a Japanese musical scale. The song’s chorus has an interesting melody, but it truly flowers during Silver’s solo, where the song’s melodic palette is explored fully. Both Adjustment and Pursuit of the 27th Man feature wonderful solos from Harrell as well. Mention must also be made of Steve Beskrone’s fierce bass playing. You never really realize how talented jazz bassists are until you see how quickly and accurately their fingers move.

Besides capturing a wonderful concert, the DVD is also a great snapshot of jazz in the 1970s, with bellbottoms, handlebar mustaches, and big puffy print shirts. It’s funny to see how rapt with attention the Italian audience is, the reverence they have for the musicians written over all their faces. 

TrackList: Adjustment, Barbara, In Pursuit of the 27th Man, Song for My Father.

- Daniel Krow
Copyright 2009 Audiophile Audition” - Daniel Krow

— Audiophile Audition