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Tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley was a key proponent of hard bop, but his sometimes dry and detached sound and challenging rhythmic agility set him apart from the more aggressive, robust style of many of his contemporaries. Yet he was one of the most distinctive and reliable musicians on the Blue Note roster.
Mobley was born on July 7, 1930, in Eastman, Georgia. He played in a New Jersey rhythm & blues band in 1951 when Max Roach discovered and recruited him. After working with and impressing some of the great bebop names such as Roach, Tadd Dameron and Dizzy Gillespie, he became a founding member of Horace Silver's Quartet in 1954. This group became part of the Jazz Messengers and when Silver later reformed a band under his own name, bequeathing the Messengers to Art Blakey, Mobley went along too. His old colleagues backed Mobley when he began leading his own recording sessions beginning in the mid-'50s. During the early '60s, he recorded two of his definitive Blue Note albums, "
No Room For Squares" and "Soul Station". No Room for Squares (1963) is one of the very best Blue Note hard bop sessions of all time and Mobley finds himself in the best possible company with trumpeters Lee Morgan and Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock and drummer Philly Joe Jones in a session that crackles with life. On Soul Station he is joined by Art Blakey, Wynton Kelly and and Paul Chambers. Mobley also worked briefly but significantly with Miles Davis and with some of the other great boppers of the time; Kenny Dorham, Freddie Hubbard, Art Farmer and Elvin Jones. In the early '70s, he co-led a quartet with Cedar Walton. Plagued by various health problems, Mobley retired from music in 1975. Four years later, his excellent 1966 recording, A Slice Of The Top, was released for the first time. He appeared briefly with Duke Jordan in 1986, but died that year of double pneumonia on May 30.


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