After stints with Max Roach (1953) and Dizzy Gillespie (1954),
tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley (1930) joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1955),
where he soon became one of the most recognizable "sounds" of hard bop,
neither torrential like Coltrane's nor mellow like Stan Getz's.
A skilled composer who focused not so much on melodic themes but on
thematic development (not on sudden bursts of emotion but on quiet fire),
his pieces were almost always supported by top-notch ensembles.
A hard-bop supergroup of vibraphonist Milt Jackson, pianist Horace Silver, bassist Doug Watkins and drummer Art Blakey accompanied him on the five original compositions of All Stars (january 1957), including the ten-minute Lower Stratosphere and the lyrical Mobley's Musings.
Another supergroup (Blakey, pianist Horace Silver, trumpeter Art Farmer, bassist Doug Watkins) played on the Quintet (march 1957) that contains Funk in Deep Freeze.
Other formative tracks were:
Hi Groove Low Feed-Back (april 1957) for a sextet with Donald Byrd on trumpet;
Double Exposure (june 1957) for a sextet with Sonny Clark on piano, Bill Hardman on trumpet, Paul Chambers on bass and Art Taylor on drums;
the 12-minute Gil-Go Blues, off Peckin' Time (february 1958), for a quintet with trumpeter Lee Morgan and pianist Wynton Kelly.
His personal masterpiece was
Soul Station (february 1960), recorded with Blakey, Chambers and pianist Wynton Kelly, containing the nine-minute title-track and Dig Dis, fluid
and warm performances.
Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard joined that quartet for Roll Call (november 1960) and introduced a discontinuity in the amalgam that somehow energized
the ten-minute Roll Call and the nine-minute A Baptist Beat.
A new quintet (with guitarist Grant Green, pianist Wynton Kelly, Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones) recorded Workout (march 1961), his second masterpiece, highlighted by two ten-minute "workouts", Workout and Uh Huh.
The Feelin's Good (march 1963)
reunited Donald Byrd (trumpet), Herbie Hancock (piano), Butch Warren (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums).
The quintet remained his favorite format for a while, yielding
the piece with his most famous solo, East of the Village (march 1963), with Donald Byrd on trumpet and Herbie Hancock on piano,
No Room for Squares (october 1963), with Lee Morgan on trumpet and Andrew Hill on piano,
the 18-bar blues The Turnaround (february 1965), with Hubbard,
The Vamp (june 1965), with Morgan.
These recordings marked a progression towards funk and soul music, a journey
that reached its destination on the sextet release A Caddy for Daddy
(december 1965), with trumpeter Lee Morgan, trombonist Curtis Fuller and pianist McCoy Tyner (A Caddy for Daddy, The Morning After).
Mobley began experimenting with different formats, while the music was becoming
Chain Reaction (june 1966), with Morgan and pianist McCoy Tyner,
Bossa For Baby (may 1967), with trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Billy Higgins.
High Voltage and Bossa Deluxe, off
Hi Voltage (october 1967), by a sextet with altoist Jackie McLean, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, pianist John Hicks,
were emblematic of Mobley's subtle soul-jazz fusion.
As his compositions turned more austere, for example
Lookin' East (january 1968), by a sextet with Woody Shaw on trumpet, Lamont Johnson on piano, George Benson on guitar,
the touching Feelin' Folksy (july 1969),
and the three-movement suite Thinking Of Home (july 1970)
he seemed to reach for an inner dimension, but suffered a devastating physical
Mobley died in 1986.
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