email at

Monday, November 12, 2007


So I was wrong....the phrase "Middleweight champion of the tenor.." is to be found in the liner notes to Blue Note 4080.. I just received the Workout album in the mail (a liberty pressing with New York labels)- a record I'd wanted for a long time- and the liner notes by Leonard Feather begin "Henry Mobley is the middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone." This is the statement that we so often read consigned Mobley to ignominity because supposedly people read this and thought it was some sort of insult meaning he was not a heavyweight like Coltrane or a lightweight like Lester Young/Getz.. his sound was in the middle... boring...etc... We read things over and over again and we start to believe they must be true but its hard for me to believe that anyone who bought this album or even just read the liner notes would only have read the first sentence! And the next paragraph qualifies the statement "That is to say, he is not to be compared (and this judgment is made in terms of size of sound as well as fame, fortune and poll victories) with such heavyweights as Coleman Hawkins or John Coltrane, both of whom, in their respective eras, can be considered the most consistently unvanquished. Nor is there any necessity to relate Hank to the lightweights, headed by Stan Getz...." I mean is it possible that this phrase "Middleweight champion of the tenor" could have consigned him to obscurity? I really think this is a case of music critics trying to make themselves important. The review is laudatory and anyone with a passing knowledge of jazz would have recognized Mobley's sidemen on the album, Kelly. Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, as all having played with Miles Davis. Its hard to believe that anyone that enjoyed jazz in 1961 would have dismissed this record because of Feather's phrase. More than likely Mobley's type of jazz- in 1961 - just wasn't "in" and for whatever reason didn't connect with people.

No comments: