In 1960, when Hank Mobley laid down his classic album Soul Station, the tenor saxophone was the sovereign instrument on the jazz bandstand, rivaled only by the trumpet. Mobley had plenty of company in the tenor zone, with the authority and spirituality of John Coltrane, the colossal and expressive clout of Sonny Rollins, and the auspicious ascendancy of Wayne Shorter as a brilliant composer and future jazz Zen Master apprenticing with one of jazz’s Rock of Gibraltar bands, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (in which Mobley had also played).
What Mobley brought to the tenor saxophone was his deep-bodied, melodic soul. With his singular saxophone voice, Mobley slipped from the ’50s hard bop realm into the soul jazz and post-bop sound of of the ’60s. As such, he has been heralded as one of the major forces on tenor in the period of time where he recorded for Blue Note—a total of 25 albums from 1955 (Hank Mobley Quartet with Blakey, pianist Horace Silver, and bassist Doug Watkins) to 1970 (Thinking of Home with trumpeter Woody Shaw, pianist Cedar Walton, guitarist Eddie Diehl, bassist Mickey Bass, and drummer Leroy Williams).
On Soul Station, recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey studio, Mobley enlisted an all-star rhythm section comprised of Blakey as well as bassist Paul Chambers and pianist Wynton Kelly, both in Miles Davis’s classic ‘50s band. They supply the swing and groove to the six tunes on the album—two standards that open and close the collection with four lyrical Mobley originals in the middle—while the tenor saxophonist flows and glows effortlessly through the lyricism that embodies all the music here.
Mobley starts the session with his sunny rendering of Irving Berlin’s “Remember,” with a tenderly smooth ride that he blows extra gusto into as the tune develops. The bouncy “This I Dig of You,” features Mobley’s stirring round tone and Blakey’s smashing solo break. Kelly establishes the groove on “Dig Dis” that Mobley blows into in his laid-back but tasty style. On the blues-steeped title tune, Mobley luminously holds court for the first half before letting his band stretch.
Taken as a whole, Soul Station exemplifies the satisfying accessibility of a vital swath of jazz during the early ’60s. Mobley steers clear of stratospheric strides on Soul Station; he’s firmly planted on sweet terra firma.
2. This I Dig Of You
3. Dig Dis
1. Split Feelin’s
2. Soul Station
3. If I Should Lose You