I think that "Soul Station" and "Workout " probably remain the pivotal records that tenor man cut Hank Mobley cut for Blue Note. The former has a degree of honed perfection about it that I suspect makes it the favourite amongst most collectors but I think that Mobley always played better with Philly Joe Jones on the drums. For my money, Mobley is a problematic artist insofar that he was never in the league of Rollins, Coltrane, Shorter or Henderson and very much focused his music on easy-swinging hard bop. It is really easy to be dismissive of his player and there are plenty of instances where be puts in the odd really mundane performance. Albums like Donald Bryd's "New Directions" almost show a lack of interest in the music he was playing and records under his own name like "Roll Call" can be pretty uninspired and feature was pretty lazy compositions. I have always felt that his best performance was on Kenny Dorham's "Whistle Stop" which is an absolute masterpiece. Albums like "Workout" set the bar a little bit lower yet the result is hugely satisfying.
Whether anyone newcomer chooses this effort or "Soul Station" is probably dependent upon the personnel. This album includes the guitar of Grant Green, another Blue Note musician who enjoys a similar cult following to Mobley but more importantly has the rhythm section of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chamber and Philly Joe Jones. This album is steeped in the blues but "Work out" and "Smokin'" are both steaming numbers in the finest Hard Bop tradition. There are also a number of refined standards but the laid back groove of "Uh huh" is little short of miraculous. In reality, there is little to choose between this brilliant record and "Soul Station" as both are records that will steadily sneak up on you as extremely rewarding sessions.
In the past, the appeal of Hank Mobley was a bit lost on me as the easy going nature of the music is deceptive. Listening to records like "Roll call" where Mobley's lazy writing diminishes the interest had a negative impression and it was only through hearing what he could do on Kenny Dorham's exceptional "Whistle Stop" that it occurred to me that his reputation was deserved.
Jazz moved along at a pretty swift pace in the 1960's and Mobley's approach which was crafted in the early Jazz Messenger line-ups quickly got overtaken by events as his smooth, laid back tones became unfashionable as Coltrane's and his angry disciple's more incendiary approach held sway. By the time that Mobley cut "Workout" he was at the peak of his game and leading a stellar outfit which included the exceptional Wynton Kelly, probably the best band pianist of this era. Mobley's ambitions were much more modest than many of the other tenor men of the 1960's and Alfred Lion's fondness for his playing ensured that he was probably over-recorded. That said, both "Work out" and "Soul Station" are pretty much perfect and if an album like "No room for squares" has the added bonus of hearing Mobley cope with a more adventurous musician like the great Andrew Hill, these approachable sessions witness the tenor man absolutely nailing the music in two comfortable, mainstream efforts. Both albums are, in my opinion, essential with Dorham's "Whistle stop" offering Mobley's apogee. All three records need to be acquired to truly appreciate Hank Mobley.
The big thing in Jazz in the late 50's and throughout the 60's was Hard Bop - tough, sinuous, melodic urban mood music for a generation. Pre-eminent among the Hard Bop Tenor sax practitioners was Hank (Henry) Mobley, born in Eastman, Georgia on July 7th 1930, and one of Blue Note's most prolific recording artists. Known as the "Middleweight Champion" of the Tenor sax for his mellow, "round" sound, he was at his absolute best when this recording was made (in 1961) with some of the most talented and sympathetic collaborators on the Blue Note roster - Paul Chambers (bass), Wynton Kelly(piano), Philly Joe Jones(drums) and Grant Green(guitar). Oh, to hear the eponymous title track again for the first time! This is really sublime Jazz at its best. Others may argue for "Soul Station" or "Roll Call" as his best work - but for me it doesn't get any better than "Workout". Forget the overproduced electronic noise of today and chill out to musicianship of the highest order.
This album is everything one would expect from a master saxophonist at the height of his career, aged just 31. It follows the release of several previous Blue Note albums under his own name, and others with the Jazz Messengers. He had just been engaged by Miles Davis as a replacement for John Coltrane, but this was not a happy time for him. By fate of birth, Mobley lived in the shadow of Coltrane with whom he is often compared, often unfavourably. This is unfair since Mobley was his own man, and in the absence of Coltrane might be remembered ad the premier saxophonist of this period.
Mobley plays masterfully in a number of tempos from fast and furious bop to a gentle and sensitive approach to ballads. He also composed a number of tunes, some of which have entered the jazz catalogue. On this album we have four "originals" (none of which have entered the jazz canon) plus two ballads.
The up-tempo material enable all the musicians to have a "workout". They are ideal vehicles for Grant Green and Wynton Kelly as well as Mobley himself. Of course Paul Chambers and Philly Joe provide the backbone on which the music is suspended.
The ballads are treated with sensitivity and Mobley's tone is brilliant.
This is an album of approachable, skilful enjoyable music. Awarded four and a half stars by Allmusic upon its original release, I am "following suit" with four stars, not because there is anything wrong with this album as such but it doesn't quite hit the spot. His previous two albums were just a little superior. Worth buying (after Soul Station and Roll Call).
For all Tenor players, all saxophone players musicians and jazz fans. Mobley is a genius on the tenor Saxophone.This album is another prime example of his style and unique sense of rhythm. At times gives the impression of breaking from his style momentarily into another with regard to bop rhythm. Not only is this album Hip it is the definition of what Hard Bop is.A lot of post bop players get a little confused when describing their Art form. This is great stuff but can be very deceiving. Every modern jazz fan should have a lot of Hank Mobley, a sense of underlying authority and drive.Excellent recording.
Although Hank Mobley was not terrific to listen to when not playing with Miles Davis (Seven Steps to Heaven, at the Blackhawk, etc.), this CD is well worth the money. In comparison to the no more than competent Soul Station session, Hank Mobley sounds much improved by Grant Green's presence.