Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hank Mobley - To One So Sweet Stay That Way: Hank Mobley in Holland (Nederlands Jazz Archief, 2016)

This seventy-seven minute disc is comprised of three sessions that tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley was involved in during a short tour of The Netherlands in Spring 1968. Although the liner essay hints that drug addiction and prison time had taken their toll and he might be past his prime, the music found on this album is really quite good. Mobley might not play with the strength of his peak years, during the late fifties and early sixties, but time and hard won experience had made him into a wiser and cagier musician, one who picked his spots, and allowed the local musicians who supported him (including drummer Han Bennink on the first three tracks) to have their say as well. The album starts off in fine fashion, with Mobley placed as a soloist backed by guitar, piano, bass and drums. The opening performance "Summertime" is taken at a fast clip and Mobley sounds completely engaged with the music, as he does on two Sonny Rollins compositions, "Sonny's Time" and "Airegin." He seems to have a real affinity for Rollins's music: playing taut, memorable lines and swinging mightily. The following two tracks "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" and "Twenty-Four And More" place him in a rare big band setting, and sparks do fly on the second performance where the orchestra is able to frame a thoughtfully constructed saxophone solo. The second half of the album is made up of four lengthy performances of standards and blues backed by a swinging piano, bass and drums trio. This places Mobley into a setting where he can thrive, with a solid and knowledgeable group that has his back and understands when to stay out of the way and when to come forth and engage him, like on the driving "Blues By Five" where Mobley emphatically states the theme and then races to a fine solo statement with the trio in hot pursuit. There is a lush piano introduction to the ballad "Like Someone in Love" and the trio makes for a very tasteful partner to the soloist's patient and yearning saxophone. They wrap up with some storming stretched out improvisations on "Three Way Split" and the standard "Autumn Leaves" and each member of the band is allowed some space, but the lion's share goes to Mobley who makes the most of it, playing in grand style. There isn't a lot of live Hank Mobley available so this is a welcome release. He is still playing assertive and confident saxophone, and his Dutch peers are more than up to the task, making this a welcome attachment to his discography. In Holland - amazon.com

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