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Evoking the soul of Hank Mobley (review)

Richard Page enjoys some playing by Alex Moxon, who organized the project ©Brett Delmage, 2014

Soul Station Tribute Concert
The Manx Pub
Monday, October 6, 2014

View photos of this performance

I can't remember where I first heard about Hank Mobley, but I suspect it may have been because one of the musicians in this tribute concert was raving about him.

Mobley was a jazz musicians' musician – especially if you're into hard bop and bebop. A tenor saxophonist, he played with Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, and Art Blakey – and even for a brief period with Miles Davis.

Between 1955 and 1970, he recorded many albums for Blue Note Records – and Soul Station (1960) is generally considered one of his best. The Penguin Guide to Jazz describes it as the “one Mobley album that should be in every collection”, and praises his rhythmic subtlety, “accenting unexpected beats and planting emphases in places that take his phrasing out of the realms of cliché”.

The four Ottawa musicians in this tribute – Richard Page on tenor sax, Joe Hincke on electric bass, Alex Moxon on guitar, and Mike Essoudry on drums – have all played bebop in various contexts, and they gave the album an energetic and respectful interpretation. Not deferential, though: the original album features Wynton Kelly on piano, and they replaced his parts with Moxon's guitar. While still fulfilling a chordal function, his was a more accented interpretation.

In the crowded, late-evening environs of a Monday night at the Manx, the quartet performed for a little under an hour. They played the album cover to cover, beginning and ending with the quieter ballads, and getting much faster and louder with the four Mobley bop originals in the middle. And they got the attention of almost the entire, frequently noisy, pub audience, who listened intently and applauded loudly.

While I wouldn't recommend rerecording a classic jazz album, I think rerendering it live – as several Ottawa groups have done in the last year – is great both for the musicians, who can celebrate their heroes and learn from playing their music more closely, and for the audiences, who are reminded of the great music of yesteryear and the roots of current jazz, in what ends up being not a copy, but a reinterpretation. Bring on more tributes!

    – Alayne McGregor

See OttawaJazzScene.ca stories about other recent tributes:

All photos © Brett Delmage, 2014