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Hank Mobley: Soul Station

Greg Simmons By

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Music Matters continues to release exceptionally high quality, all analog reissues of classic Blue Note Records' albums from the golden mid-century age of small-combo jazz. They've recently upped their game with the introduction of a higher-quality raw material formulation they call SRX Vinyl.

Hank Mobley was Blue Note Records' most prolific artist, with over thirty albums released under his own name, countless sessions as a sideman, and—according to his own telling in a rare interview shortly before he died—a number of recorded sessions that weren't released during his lifetime. Mobley was a bread-and-butter musician for the label: rarely at the creative cutting edge, but always a consistently consummate craftsman making brilliant records.

Among his many albums, a few from 1960 and 1961 are often cited among Mobley's finest—Workout, Roll Call, both from 1961, and the subject of this review, Soul Station. A quartet with Wynton Kelly on piano, Art Blakey on drums, and the ubiquitous Paul Chambers on bass, Soul Station is a generally up-tempo yet relaxed gig that's heavy on blues. Almost every track is now a staple of jazz repertoire.

One element that stands out on this record is the rhythm. There's a consistent, insistent, smooth-rolling quality to every track. Even the hardest driving number, "This I Dig Of You," has a certain flow to it, except the passage where Blakey takes his most aggressive solo with a hi-hat beat that's as rock solid as the speed of a Technics 1200, enveloped in the Master's all-hell-has-broken-loose polyrhythms.

The opening number, "Remember," swings on a simple melody played through once on the horn before Mobley takes off into his improvisation—staying close at first, then gradually broadening his extemporization with some modestly angular runs before abruptly handing it off to Kelly. Kelly's work here is solid if understated, also staying close to the melody, but played with unerring verve. There's nothing especially innovative or even all that dramatic about the track except it's so perfectly crafted that it's utterly compelling. "Remember" is not a tune that hits you over the head with flashy composition or performance intensity, ala "Blue Trane"—that just wasn't Mobley's way—but it is an exceptionally well-crafted piece of music. The same could be said for every track on this record.

Soul Station is now sixty years old and has been reissued in one format or other almost continuously for that entire time. What's new and interesting about this particular reissue is the vinyl it's pressed on. Music Matters' SRX formula is expensive to produce but yields some significant benefits. Among several wax copies of this album in the house, this one is easily the quietest, most detailed, and most coherent. Paul Chambers' bass is deeper and tighter, Mobley's horn is liquid smooth and pushed to the forefront of the soundstage, and the piano—sometimes a trouble spot on Rudy Van Gelder recordings—is almost fully fleshed out, full of reverberation and overtones. Short of an unobtanium monaural original, this may be the best pressing. It would be be hard to beat this Music Matters SRX pressing of Soul Station. The music is first rate and this fancy vinyl captures more of it—definitely worth the effort to check out.

Track Listing

Remember; This I Dig Of You; Dig Dis; Split Feelin's; Soul Station; If I Should Lose You.

Personnel

Hank Mobley: saxophone, tenor; Wynton Kelly: piano; Paul Chambers: bass, acoustic; Art Blakey: drums.

Album information

Title: Soul Station | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Music Matters

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