Hank Mobley – Newark 1953 – Uptown Records UPCD 27.66/67, CD 1: 55:00, CD 2: 52:21 ***½:
(Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Bennie Green, trombone; Walter Davis, Jr. piano; Jimmy Schenck, bass; Charli Persip, drums)
The new Uptown Records Flashback Series release of Hank Mobley’s Newark, 1953, a 2-CD live recording on Sept. 23, 1953 at the Picadilly Club in Newark, has a lot going for it. It is the known second recording date for Hank after an earlier April 1953 session done for Max Roach on Debut Records. It also features Bennie Green on trombone. Bennie was the guest artist that week at the club joining Hank, pianist Walter Davis, Jr., Jimmy Schenck on bass, and the great drummer, Charlie Persip, who were serving as the house band. Comedian Redd Foxx, who was living in Newark at the time helped book a weekly jazz night at the Picadilly, and a different guest artist was booked every week. On that Sept. night Bennie Green, who was already established as a recording artist, had the honor of guest.
The recorded vibe that night appears to be relaxed and the audience appears to be having a good time. The main problem with this release, however, is the acoustics. The recording done by noted producer, Ozzie Cadena, has a very distant sound, comparable to an air shot recording. At times the recording sounds like it was done from across the room with a tape recorder. There may have been a problem with the miking on a small stage. It’s hard to tell. Further, the piano sounds out of tune, and Walter Davis seems way back off the front line horns. It doesn’t do justice to his talent.
Hank and Bennie, of course, get the most air time. Mobley’s sound is already mostly fully formed, and his solos on “There’s a Small Hotel” on Disc 1 are warm, inventive, and swing nicely. Green is a nice foil for Hank, and as guest artist, he gets plenty of center stage prominence. The ballad medley made up of “Darn That Dream,” “Where or When,” “In Love in Vain,” and “Stardust” have Mobley, Schenck, Davis, and Green soloing respectively on one track each in the above order of track sequence. Schenck, who remained relatively unknown on the national stage holds his own with this group, and solos with sensitivity on “Where or When.” It’s a shame that he wasn’t better miked.
It’s a pleasure to listen to Bennie Green, who compared with other major trombonists of the day, never really got his due. His Blue Note 1958 release, Soul Stirrin’ was probably his biggest release in conjunction with several fine OJC recordings. Green’s burnished warm trombone tone is appreciated best on ballads such as “All the Things You Are.”
Disc 2 highlights include extended interpretations of Shorty Rogers’ “Keen and Peachy,” “Pennies from Heaven,” and Green’s own “Blues is Green.”
It has been reported that the Cadena family has more Picadilly recordings from other artists. We will eagerly await what Uptown has in store for us in the near future. Meanwhile for Mobley completists, this recording from a 23 year old tenor sax artist who would go on to much bigger dates both on his own as a recording artist, and as a major sideman for Miles Davis and others, is worth checking out. The outstanding liner notes by noted writer, Bob Blumenthal, as well as the outstanding period photographs are a welcome addition. Just don’t expect too much in acoustics from this club recording.
CD 1: Ow, There’s a Small Hotel, Ballad Medley of Darn that Dream, Where or When, In Love in Vain, Stardust; All the Things You Are, Jumpin’ with Symphony Sid
CD 2: Announcements, Lullaby of Birdland, Embraceable You, Keen and Peachy, Pennies from Heaven, Blues is Green, ‘S Wonderful
This is a delightful holiday collection.