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Hank Mobley: Hank Mobley

Greg Simmons By

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During the 1950s and '60s Hank Mobley was an especially prolific musician. In addition to many dates as a sideman, his string of 26 or so records under his own name for Blue Note certainly makes him the one of, if not the label's productivity champion. Most of his dates are excellent performances, yet somehow his name has faded from the public conscious. Jazz people know him of course—we thrive on even the smallest esoteric historical details, after all—but Mobley doesn't register with the broader public the way, for example, John Coltrane does. Most people at least recognize the name Coltrane. Mention Mobley and unless you're in a very specific group of like-minded people you'll get nothing but blank stares.

Damned shame about that, too.

Music Matters, now forthcoming with the last eleven titles in its long and desirable catalog of Blue Note reissues on vinyl, has released Mobley's eponymous 1957 date, otherwise known by its catalog number BN-1568. If for nothing more than historic purposes this is a good thing, as there were fewer than 1,000 copies pressed when this record was originally released. On the rare occasions someone actually parts with one those original pressings they generally transact for over four grand per copy making this 33rpm 180g Music Matters pressing a sparkling bargain.

Of course that's only important if the music is worth hearing, and 1568 certainly is. The date is shared with the somewhat under-recognized trumpet of Bill Hardman, as well as Curtis Porter on both alto and on some tracks a second tenor. The exceptional but ill-fated Sonny Clark massages the keys, while Blue Note house-bassist Paul Chambers keeps time with Art Taylor's skins.

"Mighty Moe And Joe" opens it with a little native-American war cry leading into a memorable up-tempo hard bop melody. Mobley's solo is taken at or more slowly than the beat, a subtle but effective technique that places his solo into high relief against the rest of the band. As always, on this track and the rest of the album, Mobley has impeccably good taste.

Hardman, all of twenty-four years old on this recording, shows great chops and tone. It's clear that he could have been an heir to Clifford Brown and a real competitor to Lee Morgan had be managed to achieve the kind of commercial success of either. His playing here is fiery and smart: tight and fast in places, loose and rubato in others. He had a lot of stylistic range and his overall performance is excellent.

Clark, always a blues player on steroids, comps tightly with the rhythm section throughout and relies on his right hand for sharp, concise improvisational statements. He had a relatively narrow bag of tricks, but he played those tricks with great individual character: a pianist who's always worth hearing.

Hank Mobley's BN-1568 is a bona-fide jazz classic and a record that's easy to recommend. It's high-style late 1950s modern jazz by some of period's finest practitioners. It would be impossible to go wrong with this one.

Track Listing: Mighty Moe & Joe; Falling in Love with Love; Bag's Groove; Double Exposure; News.

Personnel: Hank Mobley: tenor sax; Bill Hardman: trumpet; Curtis Porter: alto and tenor sax; Sonny Clark: piano; Paul Chambers: bass; Art Taylor: drums.

Title: Hank Mobley | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Music Matters


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