Hank Mobley: The Flip (1969) Liberty Blue Note

LJC thought for the day: you don’t judge a book by its cover, but by its contents. However, some covers just shout “No!” Fortunately in this case the contents say “Yes!

Selection: Feelin’ Folksy (Mobley)

. .  .  .


Dizzy Reece, trumpet; Slide Hampton, trombone; Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Vince Benedetti, piano; Alby Cullaz, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums, recorded at Barclay Studios, Paris, France, July 12, 1969, re-mastered by Van Gelder for Liberty.

Dizzy Reece! Philly Joe! .. Slide Hampton?

The end of the ’60s  saw Mobley gigging and recording in Europe: Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam, and Paris, where The Flip was recorded. Returning to the US in 1970, Hank put down his swansong as leader, Thinking Of Home, issued a decade later by Michael Cuscuna for United Artists.

All that followed was an odd appearance in 1972 on Cedar Walton’s Cobblestone album Breakthrough, (reviewed LJC 2015, including an in-depth contribution on Mobley by our resident Tubby-biographer, the slim and retro-suited Simon Spillett). Hank there sounding more like Wayne Shorter than himself. Apparently he played one track on an obscure Tete Montoliu album included only on the CD,  then pasta la vista, last supper musically for Hank. 

The Flip offers up the essential ’60s boogaloo track, The Flip, and a good one too, then onto the meat and potatoes of Mobley compositions.  The selection Feelin’ Folksy is a jaunty minor swinger that I took to immediately. It feels at home among Hank’s composition and arranging development found on the later issued UA LT series like “A Slice of The Top”, where unusual  brass textures are added by the euphonium and tuba, woven into the melodic and  harmonic structure.
 As for Hank, Mobley is hootin’ and honkin’,  dazzling runs, stretching out, joyous playing,  malted tones, and he plays with spirit, playing his heart out. His early works are collector trophies on account of scarcity, his early ’60s Blue Notes carry a heavy collector premium, but his later works like High Voltage, appearances on Lee Morgan later titles, that I find his playing personally most satisfying.
 The stand-out guest here is Dizzy Reece: shades of Freddie Hubbard’s lovely fat tone and vulnerable vibrato, shades of Kenny Dorham, bright peppery figures, and shades of  Lee Morgan: excitement. Joining them in Paris is “Slide” Hampton –  Locksley Wellington “Slide” Hampton – who slides in with silky slide trombone that lends a nice well-rounded ’50s feel to the music. Hampton is still with us, age 85.
Philly Joe turns up, in Paris? Ou est le revendeur de drogue? Where’s The Dealer? La bas!
Vinyl: BST 84329 
Never judge a book by its cover, a bottle of wine by a fancy label (always a bad sign) or in this case, an LP. Art Direction: Frank Gauna (notable art direction the iconic  Bill Evans / Jim Hall album Undercurrent), Cover Designer: Bob Venosa (Tribute: “Bravo Venosa! Dali is pleased to see spiritual madness painted with such a fine technique.” –Salvador Dali).  The Flip, a one-minute idea  play on words agreed over lunch perhaps, but it has a certain charm, shame about the ring-wear and general tatty condition.
The vinyl quality exceeded all my initial expectations: bright airy, good dynamic and tonal range, recorded by a local engineer in Barclay Studios, Paris and re-mastered by Van Gelder.  Well into Liberty new release catalogue at 84329, it has both the  Van Gelder stamp and West Coast Bert-Co labels (wide kerning typesetting of album and artist name and  seriffed 1 in Side 1), confirming my belief that around that time, new releases had the benefit of Van Gelder master metal on both Coasts. It was West Coast reissues of the Blue Note back catalogue that were mostly  re-mastered locally from copy tape, not Van Gelder.
 Collector’s Corner.
I overlooked this album, well, truthfully, I dismissed it as mere Sidewinder slipstream fodder.  As usual, I was wrong about both The Sidewinder and The Flip. There are some great tracks there, to dig into, beyond the boogaloo. It’s a worry. How many other choices have I been wrong about? A sobering thought! Time to open a bottle of wine.
Home Decorating meets the Hi Fi
Never mind Meets The Rhythm Section, here is a meeting of opposites: home decorating and hi fi. It will come as no surprise that Hi Fi’s don’t like a paint brush dropping drips and spatter on them, or hapless painters crashing down from ladders on top of them. You could spend a couple of days dismantling everything, relocating them, and reassembling it all again, a thankless couple of days work. The general anxiety had prevented a long overdue refresh of the listening room, but you can’t hold out forever.
I got an idea from the artist Christo, who has a thing about wrapping things. Big things like trees, monuments, bridges, and completely bonkers things like this Wrapped Coast.
 By a strange coincidence, at exactly the same time as Hank Mobley was recording The Flip in Paris, Christo was wrapping one million square feet of coastline at Little Bay, Sydney, Australia, realisation concluded in 1969. Spooky but we like coincidences, they tell us we are on the right road, temporal forces are aligned in the space time continuum, good things happen, everything is connected.
So, emboldened, the hour came, and LJC’s work of art was realised: Wrapped Hi Fi.  Good eh?
 I certainly felt The Fear perched on top of a step ladder next to the hi fi, leaning over the body of it to reach the top furthest corner of the picture rail, arm outstretched , tip of paint brush still centimetres short,  centre of gravity falling perilously out of the zone of balance, where teetering and wobbling begin.
If The Fear was bad enough, collateral damage was worse. Robbed of the ability to listen to music for three days, the evening listening session was replaced by watching television, a depressing experience I never want to repeat.
The imagined ladder-toppling catastrophe didn’t happen, the glossing of the furthest corner of the picture rail above the hi fi was achieved by a solution suggested to me by a hi-fi buddy who had been there himself – lashing a small brush to a long stick with duct tape. The brown upper walls, now pristine calming white, the Christo wrapping came off, and the listening room transformed.
 The icing on the cake, I chanced on a £12 chrome IKEA clip-on LED light,  spotlighting the chrome Avid Acutus Reference deck spinning, throwing a reflection of the spinning disc onto the now white wall behind, the reflections trace the flatness of the vinyl, gently rising and falling. Never mind a retro lava lamp, this is the ultimate experience, a 60’s album moving reflection.
 This is so seriously cool, I felt a need to share it. Modern Jazz, Hi Fi and home decorating tips. If you have any anecdotes that connect anything in this post now is the right time to share them.


14 thoughts on “Hank Mobley: The Flip (1969) Liberty Blue Note

  1. I generally approach Liberty-era Blue Notes cautiously, but always embrace Hank Mobley, and this one is no exception. The cover design appears to be by the same artist that designed toe cover for Lou Donaldson’s Mr Shing A Ling LP— Who might that have been please?

  2. The Flip is a strong one indeed. Given the date, a lot of interesting stuff was happening in Paris at the time. Mobley also appeared on a couple of Archie Shepp Actuel series LPs in 1969, as did Philly Joe (who was cross-pollinating with a number of ‘free’ players then) and Benedetti. PJJ and Slide Hampton recorded in the latter’s quartet (with Joachim Kühn and NHØP) for Pathé that year, and Dizzy Reece was about to record the watershed “From In To Out” with A.T., John Gilmore, Siegfried Kessler, and Patrice Caratini.

    I recommend giving Shepp’s cover of Grachan Moncur III’s “Sonny’s Back” (from Yasmina, A Black Woman) a listen — hearing him tangle with Mobley and Philly Joe is really something else!

  3. Good one – I like almost every Mobley record – my favourite being Soul Station from 1960. The least liked is his last recordings where he is just a shadow of himself. That said there is a CD released in 2017 with Dutch Radio Recordings that sound really nice.

  4. When the world became aware of the death of great jazz along comes Mr. Mobley and firmly erasures us that there was light at the end of the tunnel. I believe this recorded masterpiece is evidence that in 1969 jazz was still swinging ,wailing and most importantly grooving in an atmosphere of creative doubt. Everyone needs to find the undiscovered gems, thanks for bringing this one into our view. Always, pop, hiss and click Art

  5. I bought a copy of The Flip at Flea market many years ago with a clean record but the jacket was even more worn than the photo above. Even though I’m a photographer, with a circular design and extreme ring wear I just thought it was an abstract design. This was the record that brought Dizzy Reece into my radar. Before online databases buying used records involved a lot more guesswork. You would add a title to your library for the passion of the music, not for anticipated future resale.

  6. Coincidentally, I purchased a copy a few days ago from a notable Ebay dealer. Condition is described as VG++ and this dealer tends to be accurate and sometimes conservative. Looking forward to receiving the LP in a few days and comparing notes so to speak.

    • Followup: LP arrived and in better condition than described. Always good ! Liberty Keystone Vangelder light weight vinyl pressing. Good session that does not sound like it was recorded in 1969…no funk, fusion, free jazz etc….ok in my book. Nice overall sound, but seems to be lacking a bit at the frequency extremes. Good price, good LP.

  7. I have often noticed this Hank LP out of the corner of my eye, but have never been interested in looking further. Will have to check it out. BTW when did you replace your Volvere with the Avid Acutus Reference deck. Nice. I bought a Volvere after seeing yours. It’s still in service and doing a great job spinning my records.

  8. I had this album in factory fresh condition, a c/o with one of the corners clipped. I decided I did not like the cover and ditched it, without listening to it. The real reason being that I am prejudiced against all later Mobley outings. I find his later sound harsh compared to the subtle knitting of his early work. So despite your laudatory review, no regrets.

    • All opinions are good here Rudolf (except no opinion, that’s not so good). All our tastes differ, and change with age and experience. Last time I saw Roll Call it was at £500 or more, early Mobley in four figures, your taste is a lot more expensive. My late Mobley was less than £20, so, “I Get More Mobley for My Money” (perhaps we should put that line to music!)

  9. Well done LJC. It is really good to discover that something you had initially dismissed is a recording that is far better than you had anticipated. In my case, in 2015, I had the pleasure of discovering Alice Coltrane’s Ptah the El Daoud (also with a cover that I don’t consider to be visually pleasing). Time for you to enjoy many more hours of listening in your newly redecorated sanctum of sound.

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