All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Profiles

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

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

Related Articles

Read A Vintage Year For Jessica Felix And The Healdsburg Jazz Festival Profiles
A Vintage Year For Jessica Felix And The Healdsburg Jazz...
by Arthur R George
Published: April 19, 2018
Read Cecil Taylor: 1929-2018 Profiles
Cecil Taylor: 1929-2018
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 7, 2018
Read Boston Celebration: The Legacy of Bob Brookmeyer Profiles
Boston Celebration: The Legacy of Bob Brookmeyer
by Doug Hall
Published: March 13, 2018
Read The Jazz Corner's Lois Masteller Makes It Happen Profiles
The Jazz Corner's Lois Masteller Makes It Happen
by Gloria Krolak
Published: February 21, 2018
Read Savoy Records: From Newark To The World Profiles
Savoy Records: From Newark To The World
by Jordan Levy
Published: February 6, 2018
Read Ranky Tanky: African Rhythms Preserved Profiles
Ranky Tanky: African Rhythms Preserved
by Martin McFie
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "Jon Hendricks: Vocal Ease" Profiles Jon Hendricks: Vocal Ease
by Greg Thomas
Published: November 23, 2017
Read "Savoy Records: From Newark To The World" Profiles Savoy Records: From Newark To The World
by Jordan Levy
Published: February 6, 2018
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 "Ranky Tanky: African Rhythms Preserved" Profiles Ranky Tanky: African Rhythms Preserved
by Martin McFie
Published: January 18, 2018
Read "Cecil Taylor: 1929-2018" Profiles Cecil Taylor: 1929-2018
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 7, 2018