Hank Mobley - The Missing Album

Blue Note

Recording date: Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, March 7, 1963

Release date: Not yet released as a single album

Hank Mobley cover

As Hank Mobley's career stagnated in the 1970's, he looked back to the music he had made in the previous decade and could not understand why so much of it had remained unreleased in the Blue Note vaults. As he told John Litweiler in a rere interview in 1973, the record company had at least five of his albums "on the shelf".

As a case in point, the music from this seminal session from 1963 – the personnel are: Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Donald Byrd (trumpet), Herbie Hancock (piano), Butch Warren (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums)- was treated inexplicably by Alfred Lion.

Two tracks, "Old World, New Imports" and "Up A Step", appeared on the 1963 album "No Room For Squares". Two more, "East Of The Village" and "The Good Life", appeared on "The Turnaround!" in 1965 and the remaining two tracks, "The Feelin's Good" and "Yes Indeed", were not released until after Hank Mobley's death in 1986 as part of the album "Straight No Filter". Why the material was split like this and amalgamated with other sessions as fragments of other discs has never been made clear.

However, in this new digital age, it is quite simple to reconstruct this 'missing' album. Just select the above tracks from the above albums in your iTunes, Napster or Windows Media Player listings, place them in a separate playlist called "Hank Mobley "Missing Album"" and enjoy.

It fact it is possible to play record producer somewhat and try to decide what the title of the album should be and what the running order of the tracks should be. Here is our version of what the album details could look like:

Hank Mobley "East Of The Village"

The Feelin's Good (Hank Mobley) 5:35
Up A Step (Hank Mobley) 8:30
Yes Indeed (Sy Oliver) 5:30
East Of The Village (Hank Mobley) 6:44
The Good Life (Sacha Distel, Jack Reardon) 05:08
Old World, New Imports (Hank Mobley) 6:06

Total tuning time 37 minutes, 33 seconds.

This is not a long running time in terms of the emerging LP technology of the 60's: was that what was driving Alfred Lion's decision to parcel out this material as makeweight on other Hank Mobley albums?

Listening to this as an album is remarkable indeed.

Yes, this would have been a seminal album in Hank Mobley's attempt to re-establish himself after the gap in his output after "Soul Station". And yes, it just might have relaunched his career and have avoided the long decline into obscurity that awaited him. There are four essential original Hank Mobley compositions here, important in re-evaluating his role as a jazz composer.

"The Feelin's Good" is a mid tempo, upbeat blues of the kind that Alfred Lion would have wanted to draw an audience into an album. Herbie Hancock, then only 23 and just on the point of joining Miles Davis, is fluent and inventive. Hank Mobley solos in lyrical and flowing fashion. The longstanding issues over the tone of Hank Mobley's saxophone seem to have been resolved; the sound is more gritty and with a hint of the smokiness of George Coleman about it. And that holds true for the whole session.

"Up A Step" is a favorite Hank Mobley track. After the initial statement of the opening theme, the whole tune literally moves up a step into a long modal tension release that is quite simply joyous. There are long and involving solos from Donald Byrd and Hank Mobley. Herbie Hancock weaves textured piano around the driving bass/drums accompaniment. Half way in, we are in "Kind Of Blue" territory and feel before coming out into a hard bop finale.

Sy Oliver's "Yes Indeed" is good-time gospel tinged blues with suitably robust playing all round.

The modal "East of the Village" is perhaps the highlight of the session, emphasizing once again Hank Mobley's importance as a composer and the growing maturity of his playing with great solos from all the principals.

The Distel-Reardon song "The Good Life" is played as a big, Coleman Hawkins style ballad, unusual in Hank Mobley's repertoire but offering a good balance against the overall upbeat approach of the session. Herbie Hancock plays open chords and has never sounded more like Bill Evans.

"Old World, New Imports", an uptempo hard bop piece, makes a fitting closure to the session.

Overall, there is little doubt that this should have been one of Hank Mobley's most well recognized achievements. Only in the fullness of time have we been able to put back together a great work that was unrecognized in its day.

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Hank Mobley complete discography

Read our review of Hank Mobley's album "Quintet"

Read our review of Hank Mobley's album "Peckin' Time"

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