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Hank Mobley

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Eastman, Georgia (1930 – 1986)

Henry (Hank) Mobley (July 7, 1930 – May 30, 1986) was an American and tenor saxophonist and composer. Mobley was described by Leonard Feather as the “middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone”, a metaphor used to describe his tone that was neither as aggressive as John Coltrane nor as mellow as Stan Getz. His style was laid-back, subtle and melodic, especially in contrast with players like Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, and it took many jazz connoisseurs until after his demise to fully appreciate his talent.

Mobley was born in Eastman, Georgia, but was raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, near Newark. Early in his career, he worked with Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach. He took part in one of the landmark sessions, alongside Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Doug Watkins and trumpeter Kenny Dorham. The results of these sessions were released as Horace Silver & The Jazz Messengers. They contrasted with the classical pretensions of Cool Jazz, with Mobley’s rich lyricism being bluesier, alongside the funky approach of Horace Silver. When The Jazz Messengers split in 1956, Mobley continued on with pianist Horace Silver for a short time, although he did work again with Blakey some years later, when the drummer appeared on Mobley’s albums in the early 60s.

During the 1960s, he worked chiefly as a leader, recording 25 albums for Blue Note Records, including Soul Station and Roll Call, between 1955 and 1970. He performed with many of the most important players, such as Grant Green, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Clark, Wynton Kelly and Philly Joe Jones, and formed a particularly productive partnership with trumpeter Lee Morgan.

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