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Hank Mobley in Holland, 1968


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Tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley is as beloved as Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. And for good reason. Mobley recorded for Blue Note throughout the 1950s and '60s, and for Cobblestone in 1972, and he appears on many albums as a leader and sideman. Though not a jazz game-changer in the same regard as Sonny and Coltrane, Mobley was driven and improvised with a liquid, assertive and exciting feel. So whenever I come across new Mobley, I like to let readers know.

Some of you may already be familiar with Hank Mobley in Holland: To One So Sweet, Stay That Way (Dutch Jazz Archive). Recorded in March 1968 and released in 2017, the album reflects Mobley at a critical turning point. While Mobley recorded for Blue Note steadily, only some of his albums were being released by Alfred Lion at Blue Note. Many were issued years later. This was common practice when artists were prolific. The label didn't want to cannibalize the sales of other albums on they appeared. In addition, Mobley's solo album sales weren't exactly stellar.

Which brings us to 1967. With studio work drying up, Mobley decided to tour in Europe, where he hoped he could find club work. Arriving at Heathrow Airport in the middle of the night in April, Mobley was physically exhausted and broke. From the airport, writes Dutch journalist Fred van Doorn in the album's liner notes, “he called tenor saxophonist and club owner Ronnie Scott, who immediately put on his clothes over his pajamas, got into his car, drove to Heathrow, picked up Mobley, took care of him, gave him a place to stay and a four-week engagement at his own jazz club, starting April 22."

The following March, Mobley returned to Holland. But Dutch enthusiasm for jazz had dimmed somewhat, with younger listeners gravitating to American and British rock and soul. Instead of lavish accommodations in Amsterdam and performances at swanky theaters, club work had become the norm and was found mostly in Rotterdam, Hilversum and other smaller towns.There, club owners met players at train stations and took them to small bed-and-breakfast hotels.

Over three nights, Mobley's performances were recorded by Dutch TV and radio in two cases and a private recording was made of the third. Frank Jochemsen, the album's co-producer, found the tapes in the 2010s and assembled the rare live Mobley album. Three songs were recorded on March 20 at Theater Bellevue in Amsterdam, two at VARA studio in Hilversum on March 28, and five at Jazzclub B14 on March 29.

The first three tracks (Summertime, Sonny Stitt's Sonny's Tune and Sonny Rollins's Airegin) feature Mobely with Pim Jacobs on piano, Wim Overgaauw on guitar, Ruud Jacobs on bass and Han Bennink on drums. The next two tracks (I Didn't Know What Time It Was and Rob Madna's Twenty-Four and More) were recorded with Mobley fronting a big band. The last five (Red Garland's Blues by Five, Like Someone in Love, Miles Davis's Weird Blues, Mobely's Three-Way Split and Autumn Leaves) include Mobley with Rob Agerbeek on piano, Hans van Rossem on bass and Cees See on drums.

All of the music here is superb. Mobley's sound is smokey and relaxed but expressive, and he digs in throughout. What's more, the fidelity is fantastic thanks to Marc Broer's audio restoration and mastering.

Hank Mobley's last recording was in 1980—I Wanna Talk About You, for Nils Winther's Steeplechase label in Copenhagen, Denmark. Mobely died in 1986.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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