Saturday, May 22, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

Hank Mobley (reissue) Roll Call

Blue Note/Music Matters MMBST-84058 2 180g 45rpm LPs

Produced by: Alfred Lion
Engineered by: Rudy Van Gelder
Mixed by: Rudy Van Gelder
Mastered by: Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman at AcousTech

Review by: Michael Fremer

With clean “deep groove” originals of this 1960 release going for $500 and up, $50 is a bargain for this double 45rpm reissue cut from the original master tape without compression and including a set of outstanding inner jacket Francis Wolff photos included in a deluxe package.

The rarity of clean originals probably accounts for the high prices, plus it’s an all-star group backing Mobley including a twenty three year old Freddie Hubbard fresh off his own debut album Open Sesame plus a rather stellar rhythm section consisting of Paul Chambers on bass, Wynton Kelly on piano and the always mighty Art Blakey on drums.

This is one Blue Note that ices the notion that mono is how Blue Notes should be heard. For one thing, Blakey’s drums are allowed to roam half way across the soundstage in a bath of reverb instead of being locked away in one channel as RVG often did to drummers. For another, the wide separation between Hubbard’s trumpet and Mobley’s tenor sax allows for full enjoyment of each man’s contribution to the proceedings. Even Kelly’s piano, holding center court gets excellent sonic treatment from Van Gelder, whose piano sound was often boxy and distorted.

With the exception of a cover of “The More I See You,” the session features Mobley originals beginning with the title track opener that seems built upon or inspired by Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing).” Hubbard goes nuts and Mobley follows with some neat twists and turns.

The annotation’s characterization of Mobley is unusually tepid. For instance, “..and if the tenor saxophonist’s writing is not distinguished by innovation or always by a particular identity, it has good taste, form and a rhythmic persuasiveness going for it.”

That description is on target. The tunes themselves, especially heard in 2010, are familiar and not particularly memorable, but as the notes also contend, “…(the tunes) provided the springboard for many solos or merit.” Those are in abundance from both Mobley and Hubbard.

When this was recorded, Mobley had been in Miles Davis’ group for but a few months, which explains the presence of Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers, who were also playing with Miles then and had, of course, for some time.

Mobley played on the Some Day My Prince Will Come album and of course on the “Live at the Blackhawk” sessions, but his softer tone and laid back overall personality didn’t mesh well with what Davis was looking for and he was soon out of the group.

Mobley’s playing on the standard “The More I See You” is among the album’s highlights as is Hubbard’s muted trumpet playing on the tune. He doesn’t sound like Miles, liner notes to the contrary. He’s too busy and too fluid in my opinion. Wynton Kelly turns in a nice solo stand too.

The final tune “The Breakdown” gives everyone a chance to cut loose, with Blakey wailing and Mobley quoting some “Bemsha Swing.” It has the album going out on a high energy note.

This is another great Music Matters Blue Note reissue at a fraction of the price of an original and most likely more dynamic and tonally accurate too.

I compared it to Classic’s 33 1/3 reissue mastered by Bernie Grundman some years ago. I don’t have the exact date but this one was 180g and before Classic moved to paper on cardboard jackets. The cover art is abysmal as were many reissue covers in those early vinyl reissue days. It’s washed out and almost looks Xeroxed. The sound however, is very good. Never bet against Bernie cutting jazz. It’s his true passion. The 45rpm cut has an advantage, particularly on the inner grooves. However, for those who think some of the Hoffman/Gray cuts are too warm, the Classic has a hotter top end some might prefer. I’ll take the double 45 myself.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

This Date In Music History - May 22


Bruce Rowlands - Fairport Convention (1941)

Calvin Simon - Funkadelic (1942)

Bernie Taupin (1950)

Jerry Dammers - Specials (1954)

Iva Davis - Icehouse (1955)

Steven Morrissey - Smiths, solo (1959)

Dana Williams - Diamond Rio (1961))

Jesse Valenzuela - Gin Blossoms (1962)

Johnny Gill - New Edition (1966)

Dan Roberts - Crash Test Dummies (1967)


Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) celebrated his bar mitzvah in 1954.

In 1955, a Fats Domino concert was canceled in Bridgeport, CT because policed feared a rock 'n' roll riot would occur.

In 1958, Jerry Lee Lewis arrived at London's Heathrow Airport to begin his first British tour, along with his new bride, 14 year old third cousin, Myra. Although advised not to mention it, Lewis answered all questions about his private life. The public's shock over Lewis' marriage marks the start of a controversy leading to his British tour being cancelled after just 3 of the scheduled 37 performances.

Ernie K Doe went to #1 on the US singles chart in 1961 with "Mother In Law."

In 1964, the Beatles arrived back from their first US trip at Heathrow Airport and were greeted by thousands of screaming fans. Also on this day The Beatles scored their second US #1 album with 'The Beatles Second Album'. It displaced 'Meet The Beatles!' from the top of the charts.

The Beatles went to #1 on the US singles chart in 1965 with "Ticket To Ride," the group's eighth US #1.

Frank Sinatra appeared at Oakland Coliseum, California in 1968 and was backed by a full orchestra. The concert was a Democratic Party fundraiser.

Cream’s 'Disraeli Gears' goes gold in 1968 . Containing the war-horse “Sunshine of Your Love” it’s the group’s second album.

Now firmly ensconced as the “World’s Greatest Rock N’ Roll Band,” the Rolling Stones’ 'Sticky Fingers,' containing “Brown Sugar,” begins a four week run at #1 on the US chart in 1971. It’s guitarist Mick Taylor’s first full album with the group since replacing Brian Jones.

Wings started a five week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1976 with "Silly Love Songs," McCartney's fifth US #1 since leaving The Beatles.

The Doobie Brothers album, “Takin’ It To The Streets,” peaked at #8 in 1976 and sells over a million copies.

Cheap Trick’s breakthrough album “Live At Budokan” featuring “I Want You To Want Me” goes platinum in 1979. The album does so well as an import, Epic Records releases it in the US.

In 1980, in New York, five gold records that belonged to Jimi Hendrix were stolen from the Electric Ladyland studios.

In 1989, Rap group Public Enemy fired one of its members, Professor Griff, after he made anti-Semitic remarks in the Washington Post.

Fleetwood Mac begin recording their “live” concert on an L.A. soundstage in 1997. The performance was played on both MTV and VH1.

In 1999, ticket demand turns a five show gig in July at New Jersey’s Continental Airlines Arena into a fifteen show stand for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The reunion shows set the record for one stay at a single arena.

The final manuscript of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which was annotated by the composer, sold at an auction for $3.47 million in 2003.

In 2004, dozens of people were sent to the hospital and more than 200 are treated for heat exhaustion (temperatures near 90 degrees) at a music festival in Washington, D.C. An estimated crowd of 60,000 attend the show, which includes performances by the Offspring, Lostprophets, P.O.D. and Papa Roach.

In 2006, the J. Geils Band's entire original lineup performed together in their hometown of Boston at a private party celebrating bassist Dick Klein's 60th birthday. It reportedly was the first time the six members play together onstage in more than 20 years.

Led Zeppelin received the Polar Music Prize -- Sweden's most prestigious music award, in 2006. The award was the result of the group's "playful and experimental music [whose] eclectic elements" helped "define the genre of Hard Rock." The surviving members are presented with a check worth $123,000 by the King of Sweden.

Ozzy Osbourne's "Black Rain" was released in 2007. "It's a well-put-together album," says Ozzy. "I took my time on (it) and (guitarist) Zakk (Wylde) plays some amazing stuff as always." "I Don't Wanna Stop" is the lead single. "People keep saying to me, 'You'll be quitting soon, retiring.' I don't wanna stop!" adds Ozzy. "I'd miss the fans. I'd miss the buzz, seeing the crowd going crazy." The album was recorded at Osbourne's home studio in L.A.

In 2008, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Radiohead were recognized for their songwriting accomplishments at Britain's prestigious Ivor Novello Awards in London. Gilmour takes a Lifetime Achievement trophy. "It's been a long, bumpy and exhilarating road," says Gilmour. Radiohead receives the Album Award for "In Rainbows."