As today is the day Americans celebrate their independence from us Brits ( looking back, I think on the whole a good move) , it is only fitting to return the spotlight from British jazz back onto to our ungrateful former colony, America. And when better than to one of my favourite vintages, 1956, and my personal favourite tenor, Hank Mobley.
This day, LJC showcases Mobley’s “Jazz Message #2” (a Savoy recording). Not to be confused with “Mobley’s 2nd Message” (a Prestige recording), Mobley’s follow-up to his penultimate Message for a rival label. Message for Mr Mobley: who on earth thought up these titles? Because I’ve got a message for them, enough with the messages!
I just ask you to overlook that the copy of this great American jazz recording … is on the… umm.. the London label. Well, you can’t have it all your own way.
Happy Independence Day! Hope it all works out for you. (Not much sign so far).
Selection: Thad’s Blues (Thad Jones)
. . .
Side 1: (inc Thad’s Blues) Lee Morgan, trumpet; Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Hank Jones, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Art Taylor, drums. recorded Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, November 7, 1956
Side 2: Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Walter Bishop, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Arthur Taylor, drums recorded Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, July 27, 1956
By 1956, 26-year-old Hank Mobley was a veteran of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, recording on the side with the Horace Silver Quintet and Jackie McLean Sextet, and venturing to establish his own leadership with his own Message, no longer merely a Messenger.(I think that’s “the message”)
Hank Mobley Quintet and Sextet set out his stall through Prestige and Savoy recordings, including Mobley’s Message (Prestige PRLP 7061) Mobley’s 2nd Message (PRLP 7082), this session for Savoy, Jazz Message #2 (different recording, similar name) , and then leading his own Blue Note recordings, starting with Hank (BN 1540).
Everything was recorded over just a few months by Rudy Van Gelder at Hackensack, with basically a small roster of artists who must have passed each other countless times in Rudy’s revolving front door: Hi Hank, Bye Don, Hi Lee, Bye Doug, Hi Horace, Bye Kenny, Hi…
This critical mass of young musicians set the course of jazz for the next few years, launching their own careers, growing in confidence, progressively stretching out the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic canvas beyond these early Hard Bop sessions. Here the tunes are up-beat, jaunty compositions, young voices finding their feet, hesitantly launching their solos, and a sign of what was to come, and long before careers were finally cut short by poor healthcare, bad drugs, bad driving, or in the case of Lee Morgan, unfortunately straight shootin’.
The extra interest on the November 1956 session is the young Lee Morgan at age 17. Dates at Hackensack in November and December of 1956 were the genesis of Morgan’s earliest and most sought after Blue Note titles – November 5-7, Lee Morgan Indeed (BLP 1538), December 2, Lee Morgan Sextet (BLP 1541). This half of Hank’s Jazz Message #2 was recorded with the same line up at the same session as Savoy’s first Morgan title Introducing Lee Morgan Savoy (MG 12091). All these records now cost many thousands of dollars, apart from Hank’s Jazz Message #2, which is basically cut from the same cloth, but without the same price tag. Why wouldn’t you want it?
Vinyl: London American LTZ-C-15099
UK release of Savoy MG 12092 The Jazz Message Of Hank Mobley #2. Decca pressing.
Cover photo of Hank sponsored by Paracetamol™ instant headache relief. I know it is meant to illustrate Hank trying hard to get his jazz message across, but just looks to me like a bad case of migraine. Art direction was not Savoy’s strongest suit.
Is it just me, or are vintage jazz record prices rising out of reach of “ordinary ” collectors? Auction prices I used to second-guess quite well now frequently find me seriously outbid. One of my local record store has a wall decorated with 1960’s originals asking $500 a pop. Another London store owner recently wheeled out a collection of prized Blue Notes, mostly 4000 series in VG++/Ex condition, asking £400 each.
There is a psychological phenomenon known as “gas lighting” (from a Hollywood movie of the same name) where if you are told the same thing often enough, say that the going rate for these records is say £500, you begin to lose confidence in your previous value hierarchy, and adapt to the new one. Suddenly £400 begins to sound quite reasonable for a Blue Note original. Or £500 even. It is not uncommon to see four figures mentioned for rarer titles, and I don’t mean real trophy records which have always been out of reach.
I blame the Internet, through which the value of everything easily established, payment systems have no borders, and the postman can deliver to anywhere in the world. And then there are these damn record bloggers, virtual appetite-stimulants, no doubt a major cause of record-collecting obesity.
One possible alternative I came across recently was in a chance conversation in a store with a record collector, who had just returned from Japan. He had brought back several hundred jazz original titles from Tokyo, flying business class for the baggage allowance, filled a suitcase, and a box following in freight. Was he a dealer? I asked. The reality was more complicated.
It transpired that as a result of financial problems earlier in life he had been forced to divest himself of his prized record collection. Now back in the pink, he had taken on a life-changing mission to rebuild his collection the only way he could: from the place where most vintage jazz vinyl now resides: Japan. Not a bad solution, all in all. London Calls, Tokyo Answers.
Footnote regarding US Independence Day: The English Language...
Despite declaring independence, America took but failed to return the English Language, or at least not in the same condition they took it in. Intellectual copyright remains with us: we never said you could keep it. Look what you done with it. Like, muh…
…and why do you call your game “football” when you pick up the ball with your hands and run with it? Ball…foot…Foot…ball, simples.
Saturday July 7: Still in a state of shock England is still in the game!