Happy 55th Anniversary to Hank Mobleys Soul Station, originally recorded February 7, 1960.
Nearly two months ago to the day, I reflected adoringly about my favorite jazz LP of all time here in this column. And today, Im exploring my affection for the album that commands runner-up status. But first, a brief history lesson is in order.
When you read the name Hank Mobley, what comes to mind? Well, I trust that for many of us, the name is tough to place, perhaps vaguely recognizable at best. But in my book, Hank Mobley is one of the unsung giants within the vast annals of jazz music and deserves to be known and more importantly, heard by all.
Although Mobley never garnered the universal renown bestowed upon saxophone legends like Charlie Parker, Lester Young, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, to name a few, his tenor sax chops and prowess as a composer are worthy of the very highest praise, indeed. One fact about Mobley is irrefutable: the man was a workhorse. In the 15-year period from 1955 to 1970, Mobley recorded more than thirty albums as leader, the majority (twenty-six) recorded for Blue Note Records. This track record alone is impressive enough, but its only part of the full story of Mobleys ubiquity during the hard bop era. For Mobley contributed to nearly double that number of albums as sideman for such jazz greats as Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Dizzy Gillespie, and Lee Morgan, among many others.
And while there are a handful of Mobley LPs that can justifiably be considered classics, the true gem of his rich discography is 1960s Soul Station. Not only is Soul Station Mobleys best work, but for my money, its also the greatest album ever released by Blue Note a notable distinction considering how deep the Blue Note treasure trove of records (and my own insatiable passion for it) extends.
Symmetrical in song sequence, Soul Station opens and closes with standards Irving Berlins Remember and Ralph Rainger & Leo Robins If I Should Lose You, respectively. Nestled between these bookends are four of Mobleys original compositions, which should be regarded as standards in their own right. Throughout all six songs, Mobleys sound is consistently understated and subtle, swinging at just the right pace. Soft melodies cascade from his ever-expressive instrument, enveloping the listener in the most inviting and warmest of grooves. Simply put, the album is sublime.
Deftly supported by Blakey (drums), Wynton Kelly (piano) and Paul Chambers (bass), Mobley concedes plenty of spotlight to the rest of his quartet throughout the record. The piano and drum solos that feature in This I Dig of You are particularly revelatory displays of Kellys and Blakeys many talents. And Split Feelins embodies just how flawless the symbiotic and mutually reverential playing is among all four musicians throughout the entire record.
Founded in 1939, Blue Note is currently in the midst of a nearly two-year celebration of its 75th anniversary, most notably in the form of an ambitiously awesome vinyl reissue program. Soul Station was reissued back in May of last year, hopefully capturing the attention and tickling the ears of a new generation of jazz heads that may have overlooked it previously. My advice to you? Indulge yourself by picking up this stunner of an album and giving it a proper spin. And once youve experienced the greatness of Soul Station, continue digging through Mobleys recorded repertoire, where I suspect youll discover a lot more to love.
My Favorite Song: Remember
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