Hank Mobley: High Voltage (1967) Liberty

Selection: Two and One (Mobley)

Selection 2: Bossa Deluxe (Mobley)


Blue Mitchell (trumpet) Jackie McLean (alto sax) Hank Mobley (tenor sax) John Hicks (piano) Bob Cranshaw (bass) Billy Higgins (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, October 9, 1967

Artist of Note: John Hicks, piano, a name less familiar, to me anyway.  Starting out as a blues player, Hicks joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1964, at a time when the Messengers alumni had mostly all established careers in their own right, and the membership became a rapidly changing pick-up band. Hicks went on to appear with a number of different artists in the later ’60s, before taking up academic tenure, and playing on and off with such avant-garde musicians as Sonny Simmons, Oliver Lake and Charles Tolliver, whilst long term pianist for singer Betty Carter.

After a spell in big bands  he free-lanced with the likes of Arthur Blythe,  Pharoah Sanders and David Murray, gaining a reputation as the musician’s musician, at ease with many stylistic directions. A musical survivor, he played and recorded through to his final session in 2006.


Mobley, 1967, still in great form, confident, assured, swinging. The commercial grip of new boss Liberty dictates the formula: one boogaloo track for radio play,  one latin bossa nova, one smooth ballad, one quirky romp, one be-bopper… nothing wrong with a winning formula. Some people sit down and have the same Sunday roast very week. No boundaries being pushed here, more a comfort album, you know what to expect and Hank delivers it right on cue, and very satisfying it is.

All-Music seal of approval: “this date is solid, ranking with the very best of Mobley’s offerings for Blue Note” I should add: without the price tag attached to others. A high watermark for Mobley, who hereafter faltered  and descended into personal decline, to our loss, one of the great tenors. But here you have a first division support team – Jackie McLean! Blue Mitchell! This is great stuff, that can get missed in the shadow of Hank’s earlier rare and hopelessly expensive trophy albums. Coltrane and Rollins absolutists will not be moved, but Mobley is a voice that belongs on your turntable, now.

Vinyl: BST 84273 VAN GELDER

One of the small number of Liberty Blue Notes pressed with a serrated edge, no doubt the trademark of a pressing plant used occasionally by Liberty. Anyone knows more, do tell. There is nothing much musically of significance about serrated edge, merely a curiosity. But an annoying one. Why serrated? Speak up!

Collector’s Corner: away from home, Part One

Wandering into a record store in France the other week yielded an unexpected result. A small shop, a small jazz section, but not just the usual common reissues, this time, some goodies.  A nice original mono Blue Note 4170 in excellent condition, which I have only a Liberty stereo, and a handsome Division of United Artists mono of 1533, which I have a trifle bland Japanese issue. Not cheap, but  fairly priced.

However my offer of a credit card was met with a frown. Désolé, paiement uniquement en espèces  Cash, no Visa, Carte Blue or Paypal, sent me trotting off to a cash machine to raise sufficient readies, which thankfully it did.  Packing up my records, the dealer threw in a helpful tip.  You may be interested , there is a big jazz collection from a recently deceased very prestigious jazz collector at another shop just around the corner, but I warn you,  it is very expensive, many rare items, but very expensive. Me, interested? Whatever gave you that idea.

A short walk before closing time introduced me to Frederick, who was just about to pack up. Yes, he acknowledged, he had a rather special jazz collection. He smiled, disappeared into the backroom, and emerged a minute later holding a armful of …. original Blue Notes, including 4001 Newks Time, 4133 Dexter Gordon Swingin’ Affair, 4026 Donald Byrd Fuego, six top titles… Holy f*#k, all absolutely mint,  virtually unplayed, laminated covers sharp corners, mono, perfect condition,  authentic, beautiful.

I’m hallucinating, this isn’t happening, I’m going to wake up any second. Reality kicked in: the records were priced (ahem) realistically, at around 600 euros a pop.  I wondered briefly what the daily maximum withdrawal from a hole in the wall would be, but relieved when I saw the titles close up: got it, got it, got it, got it, got it, got it; I already had all six titles! Not in such perfect condition, and paid four to five times less than being asked. But beautiful ultimate upgrade copies just the same, how often do you see this, in front of you?.

Most of the really collectable titles in the collection had already been sold, some for over 1,000 euros each, but there were still many lesser titles left, would I like a list? Would I? The whole collection original list, twenty eight pages of pure jazz collector porn.

It is quite an experience going through a true high-end collector’s list. You quickly recognise the taste and care that went into creating that collection, spread over a lifetime. A most fastidious collection, preference for mono, Blue Notes always original Plastylite, though not always a first press. Then you notice the titles that aren’t there, no soul-jazz and few avant-garde titles, a solid be-bopper but adventuring out into other labels and artists. A little French-centric as you might expect – French Vogue, Chet Baker on Barclay. And some personal foibles, a long list of Chanteuses, jazz singers, a dozen Stan Kenton albums, old school, lots of Stan Getz, Joanne Brackeen. But some perfect taste matches too  – Harold Land West Coast Blues, Booker Ervin That’s It, Bill Evans Interplay, yes. The collector and I could have had such interesting conversations …but he’s gone.

As always, there were many titles I already had, or didn’t much fancy: Dorothy Ashby, Hip Harp, on original Prestige, harp-jazz anyone? I returned the following morning, and handed over a list of a dozen titles which had stirred my interest. He glanced at the list. Sorry, 4038 McLean Capuchin Swing is gone.  No surprise. You have to be the first through the door with this type of collection, the cherries had all been picked, but there was hope for some lesser titles, other labels.

Frederick reckoned he had already sold 20% of the collection – the most desirable 20%, of course. He promised to have a look over the weekend and see if he could come up with some remaining titles from my list. All I had to do is wait…and hope.

No, I’m not telling you anything more at this stage.  Part two, dénouement, next post. It’s like Saturday Morning Pictures when you were  kid, always finish with a cliff hanger…


14 thoughts on “Hank Mobley: High Voltage (1967) Liberty

  1. My 2 cents on the subject of underrated Mobley performances: Jazz Messengers Columbia CL 897 with 3 Mobley compositions and for my money, some of his best solos. Blakey in rare understated mode, Doug Watkins, Silver and the ubiquitous Byrd. So-so recording but end-to-end great writing, ensemble playing and solos.

  2. I have two serrated edge Liberties, coincidentally both Herbie Hancock: Inventions and Dimensions and Empyrian Isles. Both seem early Liberty, with clear circled R on label and old stock covers with the big catalogue number and STEREO on back. Nothing much to add except that they Sound Good To Me ™, though of course they’re essentially placeholders for affordable good condition original mono copies. Any day now …

    • John Hicks is my favorite pianist too, especially his performance during the 70’s and 80’s.
      My best three are:
      1) Charles Tolliver / Live at Loosdrecht Jazz Festival (Strata-East),
      2) Pharoah Sanders / Journey to the One (Theresa) (or his live album from the same label), and
      3) John Hicks with David Murray / Sketches of Tokyo (DIW).
      Among his leader albums, Hells Bells (Strata-East) seems best to my ears, and if I add one more track not an album, ‘Gumbo’ from Hamiet Bluiett / Ebu (Soul Note) is also nice.

  3. two things:

    1) John Hicks plays on many great albums on or associated with Strata-East. You need to get yourself some Strata-East albums! I know you might not care for all of them, but some, such as the jazz composer’s workshop, are really right up your alley!

    2) what makes you say that mobley “faltered and descended into personal decline” after this recording? His last session, with Cedar Walton on Cobblestone, which I know you have, is very enjoyable in my mind, despite the different sound from ‘old’ hank.

    • As readers will already know, I am a Mobley Suprematist. I say “decline” ruefully – after this album he managed just a couple of titles, The Flip and Thinking of Home – neither of which do him justice, then finally the interesting but a very different Hank reinvented Cedar Walton Cobblestone, followed by fourteen years of silence, health problems, and finally, departure. destitute. A sad ending to one of the finest voices of the tenor.

      Strata East definitely on my shopping list

  4. That final session resulted in “On The Wings Of An Eagle”, which I can’t recommend too highly.

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