Hank Mobley

Henry "Hank" Mobley (July 7, 1930 – May 30, 1986) was an American hard bop and soul jazz tenor saxophonist and composer.[1] Mobley was described by Leonard Feather as the "middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone", a metaphor used to describe his tone, that was neither as aggressive as John Coltrane nor as mellow as Stan Getz, and his style that was laid-back, subtle and melodic, especially in contrast with players like Sonny Rollins and Coltrane. The critic Stacia Proefrock claimed he is "one of the most underrated musicians of the bop era."[2]

Hank Mobley
Mobley c. 1956
Mobley c. 1956
Background information
Birth nameHenry Mobley
Born(1930-07-07)July 7, 1930
Eastman, Georgia, U.S.
DiedMay 30, 1986(1986-05-30) (aged 55)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresJazz, hard bop, soul jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
InstrumentsTenor saxophone
Years active1949–1986
LabelsBlue Note, Prestige, Savoy
Associated acts


Early life and educationEdit

Mobley was born in Eastman, Georgia, but was raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, near Newark.[3] When he was 16, an illness kept him in the house for several months. His grandmother thought of buying a saxophone to help him occupy his time, and it was then that Mobley began to play. He tried to enter a music school in Newark, but could not, since he was not a resident, so he instead studied music through books at home.


At 19, he started to play with local bands and, months later, worked for the first time with musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach.[4] He took part in one of the earliest hard bop sessions, alongside Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Doug Watkins and trumpeter Kenny Dorham. The results of these sessions were released as Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers. When The Jazz Messengers split in 1956, Mobley continued on with pianist Silver for a short time, although he did work again with Blakey some years later, when the drummer appeared on Mobley's albums in the early 1960s.

In 1956, Mobley recorded the album Mobley's Message with Jackie McLean and Donald Byrd. AllMusic gave the album 4 stars out of 5.[5]

During the 1960s, he worked chiefly as a leader, recording over 20 albums for Blue Note Records between 1955 and 1970, including Soul Station (1960), generally considered to be his finest recording,[6] and Roll Call (1960). He performed with many of the other important hard bop players, such as Grant Green, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Clark, Wynton Kelly and Philly Joe Jones, and formed a particularly productive partnership with trumpeter Lee Morgan. Mobley is widely recognized as one of the great composers of originals in the hard bop era, with interesting chord changes and room for soloists to stretch out.

Mobley spent a brief time in 1961 with Miles Davis,[1] during the trumpeter's search for a replacement for John Coltrane. He is heard on the album Someday My Prince Will Come (alongside Coltrane, who returned for the recording of two tracks), and several live recordings (In Person: Live at the Blackhawk and At Carnegie Hall).


Mobley was forced to retire in the mid-1970s, due to lung problems.[1] He also had problems with homelessness in his later years and struggled to stay in touch with his fellow musicians.[7] He worked two engagements at the Angry Squire in New York City November 22 and 23, 1985, and January 11, 1986, in a quartet with Duke Jordan and guest singer Lodi Carr a few months before his death from pneumonia in 1986.[8]



  1. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 858. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ Proefrock, Stacia. "Hank Mobley: Soul Station". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
  3. ^ Steve Huey, "Artist Biography", AllMusic.
  4. ^ Hank Mobley Quartet (Liner notes). Blue Note Records. 1955. BLP 5066.
  5. ^ "Mobley's Message - Hank Mobley | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
  6. ^ Blumenthal, Bob (1999) [1960]. "A NEW LOOK AT SOUL STATION". Soul Station (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition) (Media notes). Hank Mobley. Blue Note Records/Capitol Records.
  7. ^ Brody, Richard. "The Haunted Jazz of Hank Mobley". The New Yorker. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  8. ^ Nelson, Nels (4 June 1986). "Hank Mobley, International Jazz Figure". The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Additional readingEdit

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