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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Whatever happened to Hank Mobley? (via Dizzy Reece)

I'd always wanted this one but have found it impossible to find. There seem to have been very few copies printed of the original LP and I never see it on later pressings (i.e., liberty, new york, united artists, etc.). I do think it might be available on a scorpio pressing for 9.99.. not sure about that... but I found a Classic Records pressing and thought it would be cool to have one having heard all the hype.. Well I am impressed with the quality... The platter is heavy and really looks and feels like the original but of course no RVG or ear in the wax..sigh.... The LP cover is not as hard or thick as the original and is shinier ...on the back there is a telling "Courtesy of Blue Note Records.." I am not an audiophile but this one sounds great to me.. Now why was I interested in this one? Well , Hank Mobley firstly.... HE is the tenor man here playing with Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers and Art Taylor... .... but the main reason I was interested in this one is because the recording date on November 19, 1959 predates the one and only great Soul Station session by but a few weeks (February 7, 1960). Save for a live session with Blakey for Blue Note 4015 Meet you at the Jazz Corner in APril 1959 this was the first Blue Note Mobley date since Peckin' Time a session co-led with Lee Morgan dating back to February 1958 and also featuring Chambers and Kelly. And that was his first session since June 1957 on the classic Mobley Blue Note 1568. Its telling that he would go on to record his greatest LPs with both Chambers and Kelly. Leonard Feather who tragically called Mobley the "..middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone" (I believe in the liner notes to soul station) here also contributes the notes with the following reference to Hank; "Mobley's sound, on this track and throughout the album, has more assurance and warmth than ever"(referring to "The Rake") and later on referring to him with "Hank's time is conspicuously cool.." (re: I wishes on the moon). I have to agree with Feather that Mobley does sound different on this LP than he did in his mid 50s to 57 sides. Basically since mid 57 until Soul Station he only co-led Peckin time and played on the live Blakey date (in so far as Blue Note goes...). Ergo, Mobley's recording session work had decreased markedly. 1958 was a very fallow year taking into account that between 1956-1957 he'd been in on something like 38 sessions. He would never recover. He simply would not be recorded as often again. I suppose the reasons must either be that he fell into heavy drug use or that since he was not selling records there was not much desire to record him. The truth probably lies somewhere in between with these two factors reinforcing each other. Its truly a pity because I find his playing on the 1959-1961 period to be more enjoyable than his golden years recordingwise which must be considered 1956-1957. In fact we see that between Peckin Time in February 58 he did participate in the live at birdland twin dates for Roulette (which are not on the level of anything else he was doing) and a private basement jam session (Joe Brazil's) until in March 59 he participated on a rejected Blue Note session and played tenor on a few other rejected sessions -including one led by Sonny Clark- before Blakey took him to Birdland and the Meet you at the Jazz Corner..then it would take until the Dizzy Reece date to get him going again. So what we have is that basically Mobley between the last quarter of 1957 and the end of 1959 had barely been recorded at all! This is an amazing gap. Between Soul Station and Going Up with Hubbard (November 1960) there would be another 9 month gap. SO: 1958, 1959 and 1960 Mobley was recording infrequently. He would join Miles Davis in 1961 (perhaps March) stick around til May (includign the live at the blackhawk stuff) and be out of the Miles circle by May. At this point he would have a failed session in December for Blue Note , Another Workout (great stuff!), which would not be released and there is no record of him having played any music the entire year of 1962! What am I saying? I guess that Mobley really did fall on some hard times.. It remains for biographers to try to piece this all together... What is clear is that after failing to cut it in Miles' eyes Mobley pretty much did not play for 18 months!!!!!! Sad for someone that had cut Soul Station only the year before... mind boggling actually...

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