Hank MOBLEY – Soul Station 1960

Hank MOBLEY – Soul Station 1960
1999 Issue.

Jazz

Of all Hank Mobley’s classic sessions for Blue Note, the timeless SOUL STATION is by far the most cherished. This 1960 set features a quartet of Mobley and three masters of the rhythm section, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Art Blakey. What makes this so special, however, is the sheer perfection of it all; Mobley’s tenor is soulful and confident, Kelly is at his tasteful best, and Chambers and Blakey work in tandem like a well-oiled machine. The themes are all executed with straightforward swinging panache and the solo spots by all are some of their most flawless excursions. From bouncing grooves like “This I Dig of You” and the slow blues of the title track to the danceable Latin rhythms in “Split Feelin’s,” this is a fully formed stylistic milestone that perfectly encapsulates the hard bop era.
**
Hank Mobley is one of the most prolifically recorded instrumentalists in the history of jazz, mostly as a side-man with the likes of Art Blakey, Horace Silver, and Miles Davis. Yet seldom does his name arise in discussions of the great tenor players. In some respects, the oversight is understandable. He did not approach music with an agenda, a persona, a gimmick or any sort of extra-musical purpose. His tone is warm, exquisitely “natural” and soulful–not husky, penetrating, or dipped in excess testerone. I’m not sure about his background, but if there’s any such thing as a natural, “born” musician it’s Mobs. He’s perhaps the most “reactive” player the music has known. There are tenor players who construct solos out of more or less “set” phrases or formulae (Sonny Stitt); who deliberately create harmonic complexity (Coltrane) or test the limits of a single motif (Rollins). But Mobs is a player who simply takes what he’s given–he hears the chord change and reacts to it. And his responses are invariably fresh, lyrical, ceaselessly stirring and surprising in their sheer melodic inventiveness. Listen to his solo on “Bye Bye Blackbird” on Miles Davis’ “Live at the Blackhawk” if you want to hear improvisation at its very best. The man may have had great technique. The point is that his musical imagination was of an order that didn’t require it. The melody just pours out his horn with such inspiration that the familiar arsenal in most tenors’ repertoires–the top tones, harmonics, alternate fingurings, wobbles and other articulations–is completely beside the point in a Mobley solo.
In 1961-62 Blue Note had the foresight to record Mobley as leader on 4 priceless albums. “Soul Station” is my favorite of the four because he doesn’t have to share solo time with another horn and because the tunes, Irving Berlin’s sentimental old chestnut, “Remember,” as well as Mobley originals, push him to draw deeply upon that inexhaustible reservoir of lyrical emotion and melodic invention. When I heard Mobs in the seventies, he was a mere shadow of his former self. There were rumors that his horn had been stolen, that he was playing “leaky” borrowed instruments he couldn’t afford to have repaired, that both his chops and mind were totally wasted. It’s a story played out all too frequently with so many of the greats–Lester, Ben, Hawk. All the more reason not only to own a recording such as this but to be its responsible custodian for future generations who have not lost the capacity to hear.
By Samuel Chell.
**
“Soul Station” in 1960 was Hank Mobley’s return to the Blue Note fold after getting back into the business in 1959 via Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers band. Further working his way back with the excellent albums “Roll Call” and “Workout”, being asked by Miles Davis to replace John Coltrane in the Miles Davis band in 1961 and then recording his own “No Room for Squares” in 1963 led to new high points. But by 1964 drugs and associated legal problems led to that year being fallow once again. Much as Blue Note has been criticized for not releasing key recordings of Hank Mobley’s during and after this period, in those morally more censorious times it is hardly surprising that marketing his work was difficult.
**
This 1960 session broke the usual Blue Note quintet mold, with Mobley’s tenor saxophone featured with just a rhythm section, one that happened to be the best of the era. Pianist Wynton Kelly and bassist Paul Chambers were working regularly with Mobley in Miles Davis’s band, while the explosive drummer Art Blakey had worked with him in the original, cooperative form of the Jazz Messengers, and the familiarity shows. Blue Note had a reputation for producing “meat ‘n’ potatoes” jazz, and no musician would better fit the description than Mobley, who went about the task of making music with a workmanlike focus and a consistency that didn’t attract nearly the attention it deserved. Mobley was one of the most talented saxophonists of his generation, a superbly lyrical artist who blended an inventive tunefulness with taut rhythmic attentiveness. The flowing blues of the title track is a particularly fine example of his art. And to say this session is exemplary would be an understatement.
By Stuart Broomer. AMG.
**
Soul Station is Hank Mobley’s acknowledged masterpiece. Mobley’s hot, brilliantly constructed solos have a smooth sound and an easy feel. With Miles Davis at the time, Mobley is joined by bandmates Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers along with a magnificent Art Blakey. A true classic.
**
Hank Mobley- Tenor Sax
Art Blakey- Drums
Wynton Kelly- Piano
Paul Chambers- Bass
**
01.Remember 5:38
02.This I Dig of You 6:25
03.Dig Dis 6:05
04.Split Feelin’s 4:52
05.Soul Station 9:03
06.If I Should Lose You 5:08
**


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