It seems bizarre now, when you think about it, that Hank Mobley was actually criticised for his lack of aggression in his saxophone playing. Where Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman were repeatedly making waves by pushing boundaries with such forceful tones and trailblazing techniques, others like Mobley were content playing mellower or more obviously soulful ideas. It was this that led to many dismissing him outright, despite his often highly melodic and very song-like quality tenor playing, rich with nuance and a strong feel for the tunes he played.
‘The Flip’ was recorded at the tail-end of the last phase of his career, his third to last recording, and second to last for Blue Note – his home since the mid-fities. A rare session made in
, his band here
includes an international cast of Dizzy Reece on trumpet, Slide Hampton on
trombone, Vince Benedetti on piano, Alby Cullaz on bass and the legendary
Philly Joe Jones on drums, with all of the tunes here written by Mobley himself. Paris
And as much as Mobleys latter-day work is routinely glossed-over with dismissal, the album begins joyously, with dancing, boogie-like rhythms and firm punchy horn statements, creating a euphoric groove that is nigh impossible to dislike. ‘Feelin’ Folksy’ is also a great winner with its strong bluesy swing and sweet melody powered by Mobleys typically easy sounding soulful tenor sax – here sounding much more robust than other recent dates.
Not that Mobley is the only horn success here, Hampton and Reece both get to flex and give this session a great defined personality, especially on the Brazillian flavoured ‘Snappin’ Out’, which allows both some killer solos. Joining Mobley on the pedestal of truly underrated talents though is Vince Benedetti; his piano lines subtle and tasteful, and always accompanying the bandleader a treat.
All in all, ‘The Flip’ is a late-era Mobley gem which should be held in the same esteem as his more famous peak ‘Soul Station’. In truth, although hindsight has served him better than any meagre successes of the day, both Mobley and this work will never sit in the hallowed influential or revered ranks, but on its own, without any unnecessary or unwelcome comparisons, it’s a classy and beautiful recording.