A free jazz and improvisational musician, American composer/orchestral leader Alan Silva is a master of numerous instruments, among them the violin, cello, synthesizer, piano, and, especially, the double bass. His performances and recordings as a bassist, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, are legendary. During this period, he helped record some of the most explorative releases in improvised music, working with the likes of Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Sunny Murray, Bill Dixon, Frank Wright, Andrew Hill, and Jimmy Lyons. In 1969 he founded his own ensemble, the Celestial Communication Orchestra, organized sessions for smaller group settings, and tried his decidedly uncompromising, fresh approach to music on other instruments, most recently the keyboards.
A British citizen prior to the age of 18, Alan Silva was born in Bermuda on January 22, 1939. His father was originally from Africa, while his mother was a native of Portugal. At age five, he relocated with his family to the New York, spending the remainder of his childhood in Harlem. Influenced by the rich musical culture of the neighborhood, Silva collected jazz recordings and, because he was too young to attend club performances, listened to bebop on the radio. Around 1950 he started taking piano and drum lessons from various musicians who enjoyed the same style. The Ellington band played our church when I was 12, he recalled in an interview with Dan Warburton for the Wire magazine