Respect for Hank Mobley
Mobley’s last recording for Blue Note, and his last as a leader, was Thinking of Home. Mobley and company were back in the Van Gelder Studios for this date from July of 1970. The opening track, “Suite” is divided into three sections—‘Thinking of Home’, ‘The Flight’, and “Home At Last.’ It is Mobley’s only experiment with an extended composition, and it shows that Mobley was not standing still, nor was he overly influenced by the flavor of the day. Opening with a minor rubato section, the piece quickly jumps into a full-force bebop section that features absolutely first rate solos from trumpeter Woody Shaw and Mobley himself. By the time the piece moves into a gentle bossa nova that features guitarist Eddie Diehl to great effect, the listener has been transported into a reverie that does indeed evoke thoughts of home. The album is rounded out by the Mobley ballad “Justine” and the hard bop workouts “You Gotta Hit It” and “Talk About Gittin’ It,” both of which feature Shaw, Mobley, and pianist Cedar Walton, as well bassist Mickey Bass’ bluesy composition “Gayle’s Groove.”
Unbelievably, most of Mobley’s excellent Blue Note work didn’t come to light until the 1980s. Thinking of Home wasn’t released until 1980, while Soul Station , an album that appears on more than one critic’s list of Desert Island Discs, didn’t see the light of day until 1987. In fact, it was the reemergence of Blue Note and their subsequent reissue program that did more to encourage a reassessment of Mobley’s work than anything. In his liner notes to the 1980 release of Thinking of Home Todd Barkan wrote “Hank Mobley today is in need of ‘a decent saxophone’ so he won’t ‘blow one of his lungs out.’” Mobley died in 1986, still sadly neglected by jazz fans and writers. Check out these Blue Note reissues and rediscover a great talent.