Tag Archives: Hank Mobley

365 Days of Album Recommendations – Aug 26

Hank Mobley – Soul Station

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Critic Leonard Feather once described Hank Mobley as the “middleweight” champion of the tenor sax. His intention is doing so has been the subject of debate ever since, as has the impact of the characterization. If one understands this as a metaphor for distinguishing Mobley from supposed heavyweights like Sonny Rollins or John Coltrane, then it’s a misleading one at best, and apples and oranges at worst.

Jazz musicians like to talk about their “conception,” and I think this is perhaps a better way to understand Mobley vis-à-vis his fellow tenor slayers—each was striving for something different, and understood in this fashion, equating Rollins and Coltrane is just as silly as is separating Mobley and Rollins.

If Soul Station is any indication, what Mobley was striving for was eloquent independence atop one of the greatest rhythm sections in history; that, and a seamless integration of bop and the blues. It’s a dynamite achievement, and while Mobley may lack the wailing search of Coltrane or the bottomless well of Rollins’ improvisational mastery, he more than makes up for it in rigor, swing, vibe, tone, and clarity.

In short, it’s a fuckin’ great record.


365 Days of Album Recommendations – March 26

Hank Mobley – Workout

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I love Hank Mobley. And, I LOVE the band he has on the album. I mean LOVE. I mean, this is probably as good as it fucking gets in jazz:

Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, Grant Green, and Philly Joe Jones.

I mean, that’s a dream line-up. And they don’t disappoint. Which is pretty remarkable. You see all those names together, you’re expectations are going to be high. Very high. But the music cooks from start to finish.

I think this is generally considered to be canonical “hard bop” but for me, it’s just straight up jazz. It swings hard, and everybody wails. It’s melodic, and it’s intelligent. The interplay is spot on, the improvisations stretch but don’t break, and the electricity is palpable. It’s honestly a very fun record as well—it really feels like the musicians are just fully in it, and havin’ a ball. It’s just brilliant music.

And, it was recorded on this day back in 1961, so we’re celebrating it today.

Couple additional things to note here. Historically, I think Hank gets a bit of the short end of the stick, because reputationally Miles cut him down a peg for not bein’ the right man to fill Coltrane’s shoes. That ain’t fair. Mobley’s his own man, and this album shows it.

Soul Station is generally probably the more well-known and well-regarded of Mobley’s releases, but for my money, this is a far better album, for two key reasons: 1) Blakey is out on drums, and Philly Joe is in. That’s a good move for this set. And 2) Grant Green is added to the line-up here. That’s a damn good thing.

So, this album is a killer. Go dig it, and do it today, so you’re timely …


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