Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

668

Hank Mobley

Robert Spencer By

Sign in to view read count
He'd write some different, alternate changes, and they —Horace Silver
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. Certainly in 1999 he deserves another look.

Hank Mobley played a sweet tenor. He could play - and often played - r&b-tinged jazz; indeed, along with trumpeter Lee Morgan he became one of the foremost practitioners of this paleo-fusion in the Fifties and Sixties. But he was not a hooting, booting, keening, screaming r&b artist. Instead, he built his solos with an easygoing inexorability, building idea upon idea until the listening found himself, all unaware, transported to realms that lesser players could only dream of reaching, no matter how much they screamed.

The musicians knew. Mobley was so often in the company of titans that it's a wonder that he wasn't recognized as their peer. He played with Max Roach in the early Fifties, as well as Tadd Dameron, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham, and Elvin Jones. But Sonny Rollins owned the Fifties and John Coltrane quickly claimed the Sixties. By the time jazz was breaking up in the late Sixties Mobley was as confused as everyone else, and was recording shallow, perfunctory versions of pop hits in an unsuccessful attempt to recapture an audience.

But before that, although largely unnoticed, he was golden. He recorded one of the greatest jazz albums ever, Soul Station. He held his own with Coltrane (and Zoot Sims and Al Cohn) on Tenor Conclave. He compiled a body of work that deserves the notice of anyone who loves jazz today.

If you like Josh Redman, or Javon Jackson, or Branford, any reedman who's ever played with Wynton, check out Hank Mobley, the daddy of them all.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Gilly’s Remembered Profiles Gilly’s Remembered
by Michael J. Williams
Published: November 30, 2017
Read Jon Hendricks: Vocal Ease Profiles Jon Hendricks: Vocal Ease
by Greg Thomas
Published: November 23, 2017
Read John Abercrombie Remembered Profiles John Abercrombie Remembered
by Dave Allen
Published: November 4, 2017
Read Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 2-2 Profiles Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 2-2
by Barry Witherden
Published: November 3, 2017
Read Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 1-2 Profiles Mike Osborne: Force Of Nature - Part 1-2
by Barry Witherden
Published: November 2, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!