Born 22 January 1939, Bermuda. Silva grew up in New York, studying piano and violin from the age of 10. He also took trumpet lessons from Donald Byrd for three years. He only started playing double bass at the age of 23. His acute musical ear and interest in new sounds made him ideal for some of Cecil Taylor's most demanding music: he played on the classic Blue Note Records releases of 1966, Unit Structures and Conquistador!, and played with Taylor until 1969. Together with Burton Greene he formed the Free Form Improvisation Ensemble, and also worked for other key innovators, including Sun Ra (1965-70), Albert Ayler (1966-70), Sunny Murray (1969) and Archie Shepp (1969). In 1970 he moved to France and formed the Celestrial Communication Orchestra to play free jazz with various instrumentations. He also played in smaller groups with tenor saxophonist Frank Wright, pianist Bobby Few and drummer Muhammad Ali. From the mid-70s he lived and taught in both New York and Paris, recording with Taylor, trumpeter Bill Dixon and pianist Andrew Hill. In 1982 he recorded with the Globe Unity Orchestra. In the mid-80s he dropped out of performance, declaring that the scene had become sterile (though 1986's Take Some Risks makes one question that judgement). In 1990 he returned to performance with the pioneering British percussionist Roger Turner and tenor saxophonist Gary Todd, playing at the Crawley Outside In Festival in 1990 and touring in 1991. On this last tour he played only keyboards - a Roland U-20 - declaring that he found his bass playing no longer surprised him. An intensely involving and visual performer, Silva is a great educationalist and communicator. He needs to be witnessed live to appreciate the energy and passion of his playing.
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