Workout: The Music of Hank Mobley
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Among the great American modern jazz saxophonists, Hank Mobley has been the most unjustly neglected - the truly forgotten man. Yet he played and recorderd prolifically with the greatest legends of his era such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gilespie, Lee Morgan, Johnny Griffin and Art Blakey, helping to create some of their finest work. His best recordings are classics, characterized by an instantly identifiable sound and style, and constant musical inventiveness. But his loner personality made him his own worst enemy, many of his records remained unissued in his lifetime, and he died forgotten and destitute. Now, at last, most of his recorded legacy is available on CD and he is increasingly recognized as one of the major figures of modern jazz. In this book, the first to be published about Hank Mobley, Derek Ansell provides a detailed critical introduction to his music and a timely reassessment of his contribution to the jazz art.
1964 tended to find him with a combination of any of the above musicians as well as Donald Byrd, Elvin Jones, Lee Morgan and Cedar Walton. It is further suggested by Eddie Henderson that this was probably Miles’ most popular group in terms of the reaction of black inner-city audiences, mainly due to the availability of recent recordings and the fact that the material was well-known. At this time Miles played a constant programme of standards such as ‘If I Were a Bell’, ‘On Green Dolphin Street’,
negotiation of the chord changes all going to make this sound like a one of Mobley’s Blue Note compositions. It is a trick that few, if any, others have been able to bring off when playing Monk. Even that most personal anthem of Thelonious, ‘Blue Monk’, is treated to an idiosyncratic, personal interpretation that is light-years away from the average reading. Hank begins by playing half of the opening theme statement and leaves his pianist to finish it. Then he plays the melody through, altering
of the time sounded like Lester, Mobley already had his own thing developing. To put it as simply as possible, his sound was softer and rounder than that of the hard boppers, but harder and more resonant than Stan Getz, Richie Kamuca, Bill Perkins, Zoot Sims and the rest of Young’s stylistic descendants. And his lines were Parker-inspired hard bop, albeit with a unique and, many would say, idiosyncratic attitude towards rhythm. He would cut across bar lines and somehow squeeze as many notes as he
the ideal rhythm section of Horace Silver, Doug Watkins and Art Blakey. ‘Lower Stratosphere’ is another and the title tune from that masterpiece Soul Station is, I would suggest, the ultimate Mobley blues experience. So when Mobley died in 1986, not many people seemed even to notice and there were few to mourn his passing. By all reports available, his last few years were tragically uneventful; he was short of money, almost destitute at times and unable to play his tenor sax for fear of
considerable preparation had been carried out before going into the studio. Although he would later become a regular feature at Blue Note, it was not until November 25th 1956 that he made his second LP as bandleader for the company. That was one year and eight months after his first album, made on March 27th 1955. In between he had been busy cutting items such as The Jazz Message of Hank Mobley Volume One and Volume Two for Savoy Records and Mobley’s Message and Mobley’s Second Message for