Hank Mobley: Curtain Call (1957) Blue Note TP 2022

Selection: Don’t Get Too Hip (Mobley)

.  .  .

Artists

Hank Mobley, tenor saxophone; Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Sonny Clark, piano; Jimmy Rowser, bass; Art Taylor, drums;  recorded August 18, 1957; engineer Rudy Van Gelder, Hackensack, N.J. Previously unreleased except in Japan.

Track List

A1. Don’t Get Too Hip – 10:59
A2. Curtain Call – 5:27
A3. Deep in a Dream (Jimmy Van Heusen, Eddie DeLange) – 6:01
B1. The Mobe – 6:22
B2. My Reverie (Claude Debussy, Larry Clinton) – 5:34
B3. On the Bright Side – 7:14

Music

All Music says: “Despite an occasional tendency for Mobley’s relaxed articulation to sound a bit languorous, his playing is generally enjoyable, and his writing exhibits character, maturity, and a uniquely rhythmic approach to crafting memorable melodies.”

“Languourous” only in comparison with hard-toned players like Coltrane, it’s the joy of Mobley, in this romp through the hard bop era. I still prefer Mobley’s  melodically more adventurous early ’60s titles, but it is a pleasure to have a recording of Mobley from his earlier days of such quality, without going through the only affordable route of soft anodyne Japanese pressings of the 1500 series  – 1535, 1540,1544, 1550,1560 and 1568  all rendered unaffordable by the significant collector’s premium on originals. For some titles, you can buy 100 Tone Poets for the price of one original of these. 

The session also showcases Kenny Dorham’s clear, sharp, and sometimes piercing trumpet tone, which pairs well with Mobley’s mellifluous and sinuous tenor. Dorham’s 50’s work also suffers from the  Collector’s Premium on original editions, 1524 At Bohemia, 1535 Afro-Cuban, New Jazz 8225 Quiet Kenny (now a decent remastered edition from Craft) all unexciting Japanese pressings.on my shelf, rarely played. 

Sonny Clark bounces along as he always does, a swinging lyrical flow and wealth of melodic ideas that unfold with clarity and without fuss, deeply rooted in the blues.

Vinyl; Blue Note 61006 Tone Poet

Curtain Call was never issued at the time, but saw its first release on vinyl by Toshiba in Japan in 1984. The TP is the first US release on vinyl. 

In August 1957 Van Gelder was just five months into recording simultaneously on two-track and full track tape, so I guess both tapes were available, TP chose the two track. Kevin Gray has really brought this session to life, with a quite dynamic and balanced stereo presentation, and without my having to resort to the mono switch, as with “Poppin’ “. A remarkable transfer and RTI deliver their usual near-silent vinyl floor. Tone Poet marches onward and upward with its winning vinyl formula and thoughtful curation.

Gatefold

Fabulous Francis Wolff studio portraits transports you to 1957, captures the session, dynamic lighting, candid un-posed facial expressions, expands the music experience with the musicians in action. 

Collector’s Corner

First released on vinyl by Toshiba in 1984, subsequently on The Evil Silver Disk in 1996  and again in 2014 and 2017, all only in Japan. It seems to have suffered an identity crisis, issued with the cover of BLP 1560 “Hank”. Working title back in 1984 was  The Hank Mobley Quintet featuring Sonny Clark.

 

 

 

 

Just to add to the confusion, the Tone Poet borrows the cover from BLP 1550, as did one of the Japanese CDs.  For  historical  authenticity, the portrait of Mobley on 1550 correctly dates from 1957, when both sessions were recorded, so fair enough.

Art Director’s Tea Break

The same Francis Wolff photo of Mobley in action, but the jaunty diagonal angle of the horn on 1550, and the counter-diagonal of Mobley’s arm and fingers on the keys, highlighting the fingers, the dominant bell of the horn echoing Mobley’ s face top and bottom corners, the elegant visual flow and higher contrast cover of 1550 wins in the composition stakes by Miles.  The genius of Reid Miles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE: Simon has noted they are not exactly the same shot. I have superimposed one on the other with 50% transparency overlay, and there is a very slight difference in  the camera to subject angle, the same shoot but maybe a frame seconds before or after. In my view the crop, angle rotation and space created for text are modern post-production design decisions. 

A prize for the first reader who can correctly identify which note on the keys of his saxophone Mobley is playing in the two pictures.  Text your entry to LJC, with the word “Nit-Picker” in the subject title.

Takeaways (no Deliveroo)

My initial scepticism of this release proved unfounded. It is a child of 1957, true enough, mainstream and without the influences of boogaloo, latin, modal and post-bop which followed.  I must admit a note of caution is required on skimming through on-line samples to judge a record. It is a vastly different experience to hear the real vinyl on a real hi-fi, with the presence of musicians in the room.

Man-in-a-Shed recommended streaming from a blue-tooth synced phone to the phono-input on the back of the hi-fi, as a halfway house between a puny computer speaker and the full vinyl.  The music from online samples listening through the hi-fi was immediately more revealing and engaging, and convinced me to go the full Tone Poet.  

Horizon Scanning

There is no shortage of Sonny late 50’s recordings, including a remastered 1588 Cool Struttin’ , and the My Conception TP, originally released in 1979 in Japan as GXF 3056.   One reissue to watch out for due June 17 is BLP 1570 Dial “S” For Sonny, on Blue Note Vinyl Classics series

 

   Another fine straight ahead bopper from 1957, Sonny’s debut for Blue Note as leader,   with Art Farmer, Curtis Fuller, Hank Mobley, Wilbur Ware, and Louis Hayes. 

And wow! Lou Donaldson’s finest album, Blues Walk

24 thoughts on “Hank Mobley: Curtain Call (1957) Blue Note TP 2022

  1. Great review LJC
    Personally loving this album since it’s release date. Certainly a top tier Tone Poet……and there are so many great ones. Cannot have enough Mobe

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  2. Great review LJC
    Personally loving this album since it’s release date. Certainly a top tier Tone Poet……and there are so many great ones. Cannot have enough Mobe

    Like

  3. We don’t do texts. Nit-picker says, The same note, likely a middle or high G sharp, is being played in both shots. The little finger does seem more extended in the darker picture and thus may be pressing a more distant of the spatula keys, but, strangely enough, any of the spatula keys can be depressed for G sharp (see Figure 2B, “The complex mechanical structure of the saxophone”). One can’t determine the octave because that key is manipulated by the hidden thumb on the rear of the sax. There is also some ambiguity because one can’t see the other hand. If some keys are being depressed by said hand the note could then in fact be low A sharp, B or C sharp depending on which spatula key is also depressed by the left “pinkie.” Of course, one also can’t see the keys pressed by the sides of the hands (the so-called palm and side keys), so that too remains a confounding factor, but G sharp is definitely your best bet.
    (Please send prize to the enclosed address)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. By the way, I just browsed your Sonny Clark section, only to find that you haven’t reviewed any of his leader dates except for My Conception. This is suspicious, I have to say.

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      • I understand. Well then you should get the Blue Note Classic Reissue from 2021, that should inspire you to write about it! Selfish comment from my side, because I’m curious to read about your take on the music and to see your favorite pick.

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        • My Sonny pick is probably 4091 Leapin’ and Loppin’ , mainly because Charlie Rouse and Tommy Turrentine add a layer of complexity that is missing from Sonny’s trio albums, of which I conclude I have too many. I believe it’s Sonny’s last major album before his passing. My copy is only a Toshiba from 1983, not great. Discogs: original pressing median: £600.00
          Highest: £1,023.16.

          Personally I won’t touch the Blue Note 75 anniversary issues (2015), BG digital masters. Maybe Vinyl Classics or TP will do a decent AAA Kevin Gray remaster, some day, it would be a good choice. I may pull it off the shelf tonight, refresh my opinion.

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          • Oh yes, Leapin’ and Lopin’ is special. It will probably be released through the Classic Series within the next years. I actually was referring to Cool Struttin’ which has gotten the Kevin Gray treatment which sure sound nice. I couldn’t decide if Leapin’ and Lopin’ or Cool Struttin’ is better, both are excellent. Like you said in another post, we don’t have to decide, we can have both 🙂

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  5. I have a UA issue of 1560 and the Toshiba 1984 vinyl. The cover of 1560 has blue and mauve the Toshiba pink and green(ish) colours . The UA label has on it Volume 4 above ” The Hank Mobley Sextet ” does this mean the Toshiba release was originally slated as Volume 5 ? .Did earlier US issues of 1560 have this on the label ? In the liner notes for the Toshiba release Michael Cuscuna refers to the album being titled Curtain Call so it seems like the Japanese decided on the “featuring Sonny Clark “title on the back and label for commercial reasons I would suggest. Over to you Sherlock.

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    • 1560 was the 4th Mobley album as leader for Blue Note: 1540, 1544, 1550, and then 1560. None were labelled Volumes apart from Volume 4. The attribution “Volume 4” appears on the label of the first US press of 1560. I think the Japanese merely copied the original text, without any specific purpose to it.

      In the early days Blue Note had naming difficulty with Mobley albums, expanding the line up. 1540 added “Featuring Donald Byrd and Lee Morgan”; 1544 added “And His All-stars”; 1550 was “Quintet”, 1560 was “Sextet”. Sonny Clark had fanatical following in Japan, and it made commercial sense to highlight his presence in the sextet.

      Now, where did I put down my opium pipe?

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      • Actually, the first Mobley album was a 10 inch LP: BLP5066 or “Hank Mobley Quartet”.
        To add to the confusion, after familiarizing myself with Mobley discography on wikipedia, I know BLP1540 aka “Featuring Donald Byrd and Lee Morgan” as “Hank Mobley Sextet” and BLP1560 aka “Sextet” as “Hank”.
        Maybe that’s the real reason why Curtain Call and Poppin’ remained unissued. They had issued “Hank Mobley Quartet/Sextet/and his Allstars/Quintet”, “Hank” and “Hank Mobley”, and they couldn’t come up with another title that included “Hank”.
        Plus, Savoy and Prestige had already played through the possibilities of lending the “Jazz Messengers” title: “The Jazz Message of” and “Jazz Message No. 2” on Savoy and “Mobley’s Message” and “Mobley’s 2nd Message” on Prestige.
        It’s quite ironic, considering that Hank Mobley could pen memorable names for his tunes.

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        • I should have qualified: 4th 12″ LP . I start my Blue Note interest with 1500 series LPs, from 1956 on. I don’t have any 5000 or 7000 10″, which are rarely if ever seen here in the UK, and I believe some of the 10″ material was subsequently duplicated on 12″

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          • Hi, The 5066 10″ was not Re-released as 12″ to my knowledge. Wonderful session though. It was released as a United Artist 10″ and in japan as 10″ and as a Music Matters 45rpm. I have them all and the winner is the OG 5066! The sound is very full and satisfying to my ears.

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  6. Unfortunately, today we can only speculate because musical gems like “Curtain Call” were not originally broadcast, perhaps Alfred Lion was not very satisfied with it since everyone knows that he always wanted a very high level in each session before its release. Today, so many years later, we hear this memorable session in a different way and Tone Poet, once again, gives it the treatment it deserves. Every note and every chord is full of passion. Obviously, it’s not “Soul Station” but it’s not necessary either. Each session must be in its place.
    It was Leonard Feather who described Mobley as “the saxophone’s middleweight champion,” and his twenty-six recorded sessions for Blue Note credit him, (Mr. Blue Note they called him). Rumor has it that when you needed a tenor saxophone accompanist for your session, Hank was the one to turn to and problem solved. Unfortunately, Mr. Mobley has always been underrated by critics. However for me (and for many) “Curtain Call” is one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve ever heard.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Not being able to afford the Tone Poet, let alone the original vinyls, I wait (in vain?) For a reasonably cheap CD to add to my Monkeys.

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  8. Wonderful review! Never enough Hank. (By the way that cover is almost the same shot but it’s one frame later.)

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  9. Glad to see you plucked up the courage to buy it and don’t regret it! I’m also happy with this release.

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  10. Appreciate your feedback! Glad to hear you decided the mono button was unnecessary for this one! Looking forward to my copy arriving today! All the best – always a big fan of LJC!

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  11. A decent session for sure but I found the sound somewhat mid-biased and this a bit fatiguing at volume. Those cover photos are very similar but not the same frame. Look closely at the fingers, Hank’s lips and the angle of the horn to his shoulders; probably the very next or previous shot.

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