Saturday, 1 March 2014

Review: Hank Mobley - Thinking Of Home

‘Thinking Of Home’, after more than twenty albums as bandleader, was Hank Mobley’s final session with Blue Note. Recorded in 1970, it would go unreleased until a decade later, and he would record only one more ever album in 1972, before completely disappearing from the jazz world.

With Mobley for his label farewell is the excellent trumpeter Woody Shaw, who gets to show some good solo fire alongside longtime Mobley sideman Cedar Walton, and largely unknown guitarist Eddie Diehl. Both men get good spots, but this is firmly the Mobley/Shaw show. Mickey Bass and Lex Humphries are also present to provide a solid yet largely noteless no-frills rhythm.

A three-part suite opens, showing a rare long-form composition from Mobley. It’s a good start if sometimes a little flat, before ‘Justine’ creeps in. An open and contemplative piece, it lasts for thirteen minutes and features some solid solos from everyone except ironically Mobley, but overall it runs out of steam long before it comes to an end, and ultimately drags its heels to the finish. ‘You Gotta Hit It’ elevates things with a nice stomping hard bop and signals a strong second half to the session where everyone sounds a bit more relaxed, including the one boogaloo piece here ‘Talk About Gittin’ It’.

‘Thinking Of Home’ is a somewhat surprising later Mobley recording. There’s no obvious commercial drive or over-arching formula here, but instead a lot of modal ideas. But, while refreshing from the glut of his other later work, it sounds mostly limited and awkward. Most importantly and sadly though, Mobley sounds decidedly ‘off’ throughout. His tone, that was bright and full of life during his time with Art Blakey and on his own prime Blue Note early sixties work, is here grey and lifeless. And as a player too he heartbreakingly sounds very tired and burned out (he even looks knackered on the album cover photo).

This isn’t a recommendable piece of Mobleys history. There are much stronger points for newcomers and for anyone who wants to delve deeper beyond his handful of classics and excellent albums, there are better destinations. It has it’s moments but, with the overall feeling being one of sadness at how good he used to sound, only Mobley die-hards, (of whom I count myself), will truly want this one.


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