Monday, March 23, 2009

Hank Mobley - Hi Voltage (Blue Note, 1967)

During the label's heyday, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley was one of Blue Note Records most consistent musicians, making excellent music both as a leader and as a sideman. This album comes from near the end of his Blue Note tenure, recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ on October 9, 1967. He is teamed with Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Jackie McLean on alto saxophone, John Hicks on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass and Billy Higgins on drums on a program of all original compositions. This is a typically swinging Mobley session, and the addition of the pungent trumpet of Mitchell and the tart alto of McLean give the front line a full, meaty feel, perfect for the menu of straight ahead jazz they had before them. They open the album in grand fashion with the title track "Hi Voltage" which is a wonderful groove based swinger in the tradition of Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder." The rhythm section lays down a great base for the horn players to improvise on, and the whole performance is excellent and very inspiring. Groove also makes its presence felt on "Flirty Girty" and the Brazilian flavored "Bossa Deluxe," where the musicians lock into a nice medium-up tempo pocket, and ride it well. There's nothing particularly progressive here, just solid meat and potatoes jazz that was the heart and soul of the hard bop movement. The only soft spot is the album's sole ballad, reserved as a feature for Mobley as the only horn. "No More Goodbyes" comes off as a little flat and uninspired, which is surprising because Mobley is usually an excellent ballad player. But that said, it is hard to imagine a fan of hard bop or mainstream jazz not liking this album, which is a fine and unpretentious selection of bop and blues, played with a steady hand.
Hi Voltage -

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