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EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Hank Mobley: The Feelin's Good

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The mists of time have a way of obscuring the motives behind people's decisions. “What were they thinking?" and “It must have seemed like a good idea at the time" must be among the most universal human sentiments. In the music business, a session gets recorded, and often it gets released, but occasionally it doesn't. Sometimes a tape sits on a shelf collecting dust for fifty years, leaving later-day musical archeologists to ponder why. Maybe that session gets cut up, or it vanishes into obscurity. Occasionally we get lucky: someone remembers that it's there and makes the effort to release ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Hank Mobley: Hank Mobley (On Wax)

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Hank Mobley Hank Mobley Blue Note / Music Matters 2009 (1958)

Since round about fall 2007, Music Matters has been in the business of releasing classic Blue Note records from the 1950s and 1960s, many currently unavailable on CD, on 180-gram vinyl pressings made at 45-rpm (necessitating a two-disk format). The idea is to provide jazz enthusiasts with archival-quality editions of these historic and musically vital sessions. They include a renewed focus on the visual through exquisitely crafted, heavy-duty gatefold album covers that preserve the original artwork and add new session photos--printed ...

BOOK REVIEWS

Workout: The Music of Hank Mobley

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Workout: The Music of Hank Mobley Derek Ansell Hardcover; 162 pages ISBN: 978 09550908-8-2 Northway Books 2008

As a tenor saxophonist, Hank Mobley committed the cardinal sin of not adhering to any established stylistic aesthetic, for all of his association with the hard bop idiom. Author Derek Ansell rightly makes much of this in his book, the first to be devoted to Mobley. For if jazz is an art form in which individuality is valued, then Mobley is an example of how this is sometimes not the case. ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hank Mobley: Hank Mobley

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Count yourself fortunate to get your hands on this session, originally released on Blue Note, and not simply for the incredibly hip photo of Mobley on the cover (though I'll admit that's what initially hooked me). On this Toshiba EMI International reissue, the liner notes are in Japanese, the audio is merely “good" (undoubtedly a Van Gelder remastering would provide more presence to both piano and drums), and the front line is probably unknown to many listeners. But in terms of the program, and the execution by the ensemble, as well as the performances of individual soloists, this eponymously titled ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Hank Mobley: Another Workout

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Hank Mobley Another Workout Blue Note 2006 (1961/1985)

I can scarcely remember the last time an anticipated “new" release has afforded as much immediate pleasure as this one. Go with a single horn player--arguably the most melodically fertile tenor saxophonist of his time--and give him the support of a rhythm section once cherry-picked by Miles Davis. The result is not merely predictable excellence but music that's frequently as surprising as it is satisfying. You may choose to view this session as Mobley's Workout (Blue Note, 1961) minus Grant Green, but to my ears it's ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hank Mobley: Dippin'

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Hank Mobley spent most of 1964 banged up for drug offences. The year of the Beatles' US breakthrough, which sounded the final death knell for hard bop as a mainline music of inner city youth, happened beyond Mobley's eyes and ears. Is it too fanciful to suppose he barely noticed it happening?

Probably yes. But it would explain the headlong vigour and take-no-prisoners confidence of 1965's Dippin'. The album starts with an explosive, declarative drum roll from Billy Higgins before charging straight into the sanctified up-tempo funk of “The Dip," and thereafter only cools the temperature once, for the porcelain ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hank Mobley: Workout

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Miles Davis dissed him, Leonard Feather called him the middleweight champion, and most people thought that John Coltrane outshone him. Because of these and a few other real or imagined slings and arrows, a kind of victim support group vibe has gathered around Hank Mobley in recent years. He's in danger of going down in history as a tragic figure.

But hey! Here's another perspective to consider. Mobley recorded an astonishing 25 albums as a leader or co-leader for Blue Note (not even Grant Green comes close), was featured on around another 35 Blue Notes as a sideman, and made ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hank Mobley: Hi Voltage

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Poor Hank Mobley: overlooked and under appreciated in his lifetime not only as a tenor player, but also as a composer, as this '68 reissue testifies. While none of these originals have caught on through the years, Hi Voltage makes a strong case for a revisit of Mobley's songbook.

With an all-star frontline (Jackie McLean and Blue Mitchell), Mobley takes the band through a set of advanced hard bop ("Two and One"), sophisticated samba ("Bossa De Luxe"), and down and dirty boogaloo ("Flirty Gerty"). Throughout each piece, the passionate rhythm section of Blue Note regulars (John Hicks, Bob ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hank Mobley: Hi Voltage

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I'm one of those listeners so addicted to the blues-drenched, butterscotch-smooth sound of Hank Mobley's tenor that I can scarcely last a week without playing one of his recordings. The newly reissued Hi Voltage, unfortunately, turns out to be a negligible session by the “middleweight champion" of the tenor saxophone.

When the recording was made in the late sixties, the lyrical style associated with Mobley was falling out of favor, so he elected to try for a “harder and hipper" ensemble sound, suggestive of the Jazz Crusaders or Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil.

The problem is ...

LATE NIGHT THOUGHTS ON JAZZ

Respect for Hank Mobley

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Hank Mobley always suffered from the perception in some quarters that he was neither an innovative nor particularly gifted improviser. This is hogwash, as the many Mobley reissues that are becoming available demonstrate. The main problem most listeners had with Mobley was that he was not fortunate enough to be born John Coltrane or Sonny Rollins. With these two tenor players seen as the most interesting and gifted of the time, Mobley was relegated to the back burner of mere competency, which has damned many a jazz musician to obscurity.

What is forgotten is that prior to joining Miles Davis’ ...

ARTIST PROFILES

Hank Mobley

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In the Unsung Hero business some are more unsung than others, and Hank Mobley ranks with the most surpassingly unsung. But this is no distinction; it is a tragedy. Miles Davis dissed him, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins overshadowed him, and the avant-garde and fusion cast him into penniless obscurity. By the time he died in 1986 at the age of 55, he was largely forgotten. But who knows? If the great Hidden Hand had sent him into the world in 1910 instead of 1930, he might be recognized today as one of the all-time giants of the tenor saxophone. ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Unsung Recordings by Hank Mobley

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Our “Unsung Recordings" section is designed to give you a sense of some of the best recordings of an “Unsung Hero." Here are two of Hank Mobley's greatest - and one of his most intriguing:

Soul Station (Blue Note RVG Edition 7243 4 95343 2 2)

Rudy Van Gelder made it sound great in 1960, and he has made it sound even better now. Soul Station is a set of four Mobley originals and two standards that should be recognized as one of the all-time greatest jazz albums. This outstanding remastering should help. Mobley is joined ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hank Mobley: The Flip

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Leonard Feather once hailed Hank Mobley as “the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone." Mobley was better than that. An exquisite soul messenger, Mobley was criticized for not being as aggressive, voluminous, or trailblazing as his contemporaries. Indeed, he was not. Instead, his music was steeped in care, precision and nuances. In Mobley's hands, such treatment often dazzled, as on his latest Blue Note reissue, The Flip.

Recorded in 1969 at Studio Barclay in Paris, this album would be Mobley's second to last for the label. He's supported by an excellent crew of international musicians, including Dizzy Reece on trumpet, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Hank Mobley: Thinking of Home

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The great jazz critic Leonard Feather once described Hank Mobley as the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone. Not a name that the novice jazz fan may recognize, Hank Mobley recorded over twenty LPs for Blue Note. Thinking of Home is his last title for Blue Note; released in 1970, this is a fitting farewell session. It features the powerful trumpet playing of Woody Shaw and the exciting pianist Cedar Walton. Hank Mobley's playing has a fire that ought to remind you of the Jazz Messengers, as it should since he was one of the original members of ...



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