Record of the Day: Hank Mobley, "The Turnaround!"

Record of the Day: Hank Mobley, “The Turnaround!”

Hank Mobley
The Turnaround! (Blue Note CD 7243524540)

This morning the desire for hardbop stings strong, it will be better to rummage through the record collection; faced with the pile of CDs bearing the name of Hank Mobley, however, the dilemma becomes truly insoluble: how can you choose just one title from such a rich and quality discography? Reluctantly skipping over numerous beautiful albums, I finally decide on “The Turnaround!”, which collects recordings made by the saxophonist between 1963 and 1965.
Even though this was definitely a bad period for Mobley (who spent a good part of 1964 in prison for drug problems) his playing was not affected at all, on the contrary; the sparkling phrasing so typical of his style resonates forcefully in these inventive tracks.

Perhaps the choice of this album is dictated by the desire to hear again the groove of the song that titles the album, which despite being a clear attempt to copy the great success “The Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan manages to have a life of its own thanks to the flamboyant participants’ performances; in particular Paul Chambers (double bass) and Billy Higgins (drums) give life to a rhythmic carpet moving like a dervish, elastic and snappy in its glance at the r&b world without losing an ounce of jazz feeling. Mobley, Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) and Barry Harris (piano) give generous solos that press along the walls of the simple blues loop on which the piece is built, extending the harmonic range in unusual directions where creativity springs naturally, almost effortlessly .

Even more orthodox songs from a stylistic point of view such as “Pat’n’Chat” and “Straight Ahead” have a perfect balance, supported by interventions of absolute intelligence that highlight the skill of each member of the group.
The two songs recorded with another lineup (where Herbie Hancock’s piano and Donald Byrd’s trumpet stand out) are also magnificent, in particular the version of “The Good Life”: it is interesting to be able to compare Mobley’s style in these pieces, decidedly more delicate than the engravings made after his release from prison; these have a more decisive and edgy attack combined with greater sound power, which together with tons of swing and energy make

This album is a gem whose beauty is renewed with every listen.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.