## 1-6 Soul Station. 1960. Blue Note
Other than his 1955 debut for Blue Note, this set (reissued on CD) was tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley's first opportunity to record as leader of a quartet without any other competing horns. With the stimulating support of pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Blakey, Mobley is in peak form on four of his originals (of which "This I Dig of You" is best-known), "Remember" and the ballad "If I Should Lose You." Mobley's improvisations are melodic and thoughtful, yet always swinging and full of inner fire. This CD serves as a perfect introduction to the playing and writing abilities of this underrated talent.
All Music Guide
## 7-12 The Turnaround. 1965. Blue Note
The CD reissue of Hank Mobley's The Turnaround is different from the original LP in that two songs from a March 7, 1963, date were dropped, while two previously unissued ones from February 4, 1965, were added. Most intriguing about this quintet set with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, pianist Barry Harris, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Billy Higgins are the six likable but complex Mobley compositions. A very underrated writer, many of Hank Mobley's originals deserve to be revived, including these six ("Pat 'N Chat," "Third Time Around," "Hank's Waltz," "The Turnaround," "Straight Ahead," and "My Sin"). Rather than stick to the standard 32-bar format heard on most pre-1970 songs, Mobley's pieces utilize choruses of 44, 20, and 50 bars while still sounding logical. All of the musicians play up to par on these advanced hard bop tunes.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Recently, it has become more and more incorrect to pass off a jazz record as a "blowing date" (a term, by the way, that has become at least semi-derogatory) simply because there are only four or five musicians involved. The days of men coming into a studio and "just blowing" (a practice that only the very greatest jazzmen have ever been able to get away with) are apparently over, for the most part. At one time, you could safely assume that a forty-minute LP had taken, at most, an hour to put together. No more.
What has this to do with Hank Mobley? Quite a bit, to judge from this IP, Soul Station. On the surface, it contains all the elements of a blowing session - tenor '. and rhythm, a few originals, a couple of seldom-done standards, and a blues. But the difference is to be heard as soon as you begin to listen to the record. And let us take things in what might seem to be reverse order for a moment, and discuss the reasons for the difference itself Hank has always been a musician's musician - a designation that can easily become the kiss of death for the man who holds it. Fans and critics will reel off their list of tenor players, a list that is as easily changed by fashion as not, and then the musician over in the corner will say, "Yes, but have you heard Hank Mobley?" The musician saying that, in this particular case, might very well be a drummer. The groups Hank works with are often led by drummers - Art Blakey and Max Roach, to name two men who need, as they say, no introduction, and the first of whom contributes to a great degree to the success of this album. One might suppose, considering this, that Hank is possessed of an unusual rhythmic sense, and one would be right. In a conversation I had with Art Blakey while preparing the notes for his two Blue Note LPs called Holiday For Skins (BLP 4004-5), he was discussing the fact that while many songs are written in complex rhythms, the solos generally revert to a straight four. His reason for this was that most soloists probably could not play them any other way. "Hank Mobley could do it, though," he said. But even while possessing this definite asset. Hank has also carried a liability around with him for a long time - a liability, that is, as far as commercialism is concerned: he is not easily classified. Everyone knows by now how writers on jazz like to trot out phrases like Hawkins-informed, Roll insderived, Young - influenced and the like, and then, having formed their pigeonhole, they proceed to drop the musician under discussion into it and fill the dirt in over him. That is not easily done with Hank Mobley. He is, to be sure, associated with East Coast musicians and material, but he has never had the so-called "hard bop" sound that is generally a standard part of the equipment of such tenomnen. At the same time, Charlie Parker was certainly a greater part of his playing than Lester Young, which is often enough to label a man a bopper, so what was Mobley doing? The answer is so simple as to be completely overlooked in a mass of theory, digging for influences, and the like: he was working out his own style.
But - and here again, he suffers from a commercial liability - he did not do it in a spectacular way. He did not, in the manner of Sonny Rollins, in 1955 emerge from a long self-imposed retirement with a startling new approach. Nor did he, in the manner of John Coltrane, come almost completely unknown under the teaching influence of the great Miles Davis (for how many men has that recently been the key to success). Instead, he worked slowly and carefully, in the manner of a craftsman, building the foundations of a style, taking what he needed to take from whomever he needed to take it (everyone does that, the difference between genius and hackwork is the manner in which it is done), and finally emerging, on this album, not with a disconnected series of tunes, but with a definite statement to make.
Evidence of that, to get back to the idea with which these comments began, is to be found in the care with which this set has been assembled. First of all, there are the sidemen - Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Art Blakey. To discuss Blakey again on each new record release is almost to insult him and his contribution to jazz, particularly since he says it himself very well, clearly, and with great authority in his solo on "This I Dig Of You."
But about Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers, for a moment. It is probably no accident that both of them are members of Miles Davis's group - I hesitate to call it a quintet or sextet, since that is so often in doubt. Miles has been famous for the superb quality of his rhythm sections as much as for any of his other contributions, and some of the ideas that started in his group or in his observance of Ahmad Jahmal's group are to be found on this record. The basis of these ideas - pedalpoint, rhythmic suspensions, a general lightness of approach - all have their basis in one underlyingidea - the best music is never very far from dance. This concept can be found not only in Miles's work, but in the solo albums made by Coltrane, in those of Sonny Rollins, and even in the work of Thelonious Monk, who has taken to doing his. own extremely expressive dance in front of his group. This is not to say that any of these men, or Hank Mobley either, "play for dancing," although what they play is certainly more conducive to dancing than the music of Freddy Martin or Guy Lombardo, but that the qualities that are essential to dance - a light- ness, flow and flexibility, all within the confines of definite form and overall sense of structure - are essential to their music.
The unusual sound of Mobley's tenor might very well come of this idea of dance. Jazz is rich in legends of unknown saxophonists, celebrated only in their immediate area, but having an enormous effect on men who went on to much wider acclaim. These men being small-town on-the-stand musicians, playing for dances for the most part, have had in all likelihood, a sound very much like the sound of Mobley's tenor, or like Coltrane's or Rollins's, for that matter. And it would take a man with a knowledge of dance music to pick as fine and unlikely an old song as Irving Berlin's "Remember" to start his set with. (Monk, incidentally, also has a penchant for old Berlin tunes.)
I think also, that dance must be behind as charming, lightly swinging, and immediately attractive a song (song is the right word here, not "tune" or "original") as Hank Mobley's composition "This I Dig Of You," which brings out the best of all the musicians - Blakey's solo has been mentioned before, and I am particularly charmed by Wynton Kelly's solo, with its ever-present echoes of 'The Party's Over."
These ideas are present, but the four men involved are all excellent craftsmen, so the ideas do not intrude upon the music, as sometimes happens with the sometimes over-self-concious Modern Jazz Quartet. You do not think of dance, or rhythmic shifts, or the changing approachto the tenor saxophone, or the old tunes, or the inevitable funky blues. You simply hear, at first, four men swinging lightly, powerfully and with great assurance and authority. You relax, listen and enjoy yourself. And then later, when you think about it, you realize just how much of an achievement this apparently causal LP represents. And you think with new admiration and respect about Hank Mobley, because you realize how much of that achievement he has been able to make his own.
- Joe Goldberg, (original liner Notes)
'The goal of any Jazzman," wrote Nat Hentoff in the liner notes for a Blue Note album [I'm Tryiri To Get Home, Donald Byrd, 41 88) to find and be himself in his music." This important search to convey that personal feeling about things in life through music has proven highly elusive for many musicians. Some are content to give up the quest after a period of time. The more gifted find it and continue to discover new and exciting ways to say that important "something."
There are musicians who have gained acceptance from their musician friends. Their credentials are impressive. Their work is, always performed well with a minimum of fanfare. They approach the music with deliberation and almost effortlessly transfer it into a work of art.
Such a musician is Henry "Hank" Mobley. Throughout his career, he has proven to be one of the solid rocks in many of the groups led by such giants as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Max Roach, Art Blakey and others. They have found him more than competent and ready to take care of business.
The road to total acceptance for a jazz artist by the public often takes a long delayed route. Unless a musician purposely directs his sound for commercial appeal and forgoes his "art," he remains on the periphery of the jazz world. He seldom emerges to bask in the sunlight of public adulation and great commercial rewards.
The foregoing is applicable to Hank Mobley. This quiet and almost unassuming tenorman has been a unique performer in |azz. He is well known among musicians and the "in group" of jazz. But to the general public he is virtually a stranger.
I asked Hank, as we listened to this album, whether this anonymity among the general public disturbed him. He paused for a moment and reflected: "No, not really. One moment in my life, I allowed it to disturb me. But then I thought as long as people like Charlie Parker, Dizzy and Miles give me fairly decent compliments, that's enough. As long as I can survive, that's enough. If anything is there, if anything is to happen, it will happen. I think their esteem is my greatest satisfaction. I worked with fellows like Bird and Dizzy when I first started and when I wasn't as sure of myself as I am now. I worked two and a half years with Miles and we never had a harsh word, just a lot of understanding."
In his album No Room For Squares, BLP 4149, Hank led two different groups. He repeats that setting in this album. Listening to "Squares," I agree with critic Joe Goldberg's analysis, "I hear a greater order, economy and authority in his work, so that it now becomes much easier to understand the respect his colleagues have had for him all these years."
This present album is additional proof of the reasons for the compliments paid him by musicians. It should add for him a host of new fans who will discover one of the most able tenor saxophonists on the scene today.
I detect more bite and authority in his playing. The economy that Goldberg described in No Room For Squares has given way to a marvelous lucidness that is always lyrical. As an exponent of the "hard driving swing school" which has greatly influenced him, Hank does not forget to swing, as you will hear in "Straight Ahead" and "Pat M' Chat."
The ballads, "Good Life" and "My Sin" are examples of Hank's refinement and feeling for pretty tunes. Hank said, "I like to play ballads. I would like one day to do a couple of albums of ballads and standards." He does not find it necessary to impress you with phrases that display technique. His years with Miles taught him that there can be beauty in simply being melodic. Of the six tunes on this album, Hank has written five. I was curious to know if his future plans included more writing. He has ideas he wants to try. There are plans for big band writing and experiments with different combinations of brass and horns. His exploring is motivated in the hope of allowing a bit more of himself to project in his music. He feels a musician must continue to grow. He must study and observe, always hoping to be able to say it musically a little better.
This album of dual settings has him surrounded by some real swingers. I feel it will be the turnaround in a career that certainly deserves wider attention.
Side one leads off with the title tune, "The Turnaround." The significance of the title comes from the interesting time changes. He has written a 16-bar blues on the outside. On the inside, there are 1 8 bars. Since most blues are the conventional 12-bar structure, Hank decided to add a minor channel to the 1 6 bars and thus the reason for "The Turnaround."
It is not uncommon to find jazz musicians listening to all forms of music, from classical to rock and roll. It was interesting to note that Hank's idea for this tune stemmed from, as he says, "listening to some of those out-of-meter rock and roll groups. Sometimes they will play al 2-bar blues, sometimes 1 3 bars and it is interesting."
The rhythm section of Barry Harris, Paul Chambers and Billy Higgins is exceptionally fight. Billy's drumming is tastefully crisp. Harris's piano is inventive. Paul's bass is the perennial solid rock. The vampish line throughout is appealing and catchy. The melodic line remains dominant. Freddie Hubbard and Hank's solos are heightened by their weaving in and around "The Turnaround" theme.
"East Of The Village" brings the second group to the fore. Hank was living in the East Village at the time he composed this tune. He attempted to express musically his feelings of the mass groups of people from different nationalities who make this area of New York so colorful. Therefore, you'll hear nuances of the blues, Latin and swing in this tune. Written in a 6/8 meter, it has an interesting time change. The 6/8 remains constant only in the beginning of the composition and from the vamp. It should be noted that there was an extraordinary rapport within the group on this tune - Byrd, Hancock, Warren, Phillyjoe - all stellar members of the "swingers school."
"Straight Ahead" and "Pat N Choi" are potent examples of Hank's ability to swing. Each man takes a piece and drives straight ahead in a no-nonsense "lefs take care of business" vein. In listening to these two tunes you become more conscious of the fact that regardless of the varied directions jazz may take, rhythm is still and always will remain, the thing.
If there is to be a turnaround in his career, the evidence is here that the style he has slowly evolved from his early days when there was a definite Sonny Stiff and Sonny Rollins influence, is about to develop into his own personal way of interpretation.
Hank was well satisfied with this date and we can well understand his feeling. Hank said, "I want to get more out of my music. After you learn from the masters, you must pursue your own direction. I want to get a nice pleasant sound from the saxophone, and develop a rhythmic style and a swinging style." I feel Hank is well on his way in this album, The Turnaround.
- Del Shields (original liner notes)