Awhile back I was at the radio station KCSM vinyl record swap and came across an oddity. A Hank Mobley LP, Thinking Of Home (Blue Note LT 1045, stereo, 1970) in a hand made cover. Well, hand made is putting it nicely. The original cover must have been lost and someone took a Milt Jackson cover, turned it inside-out and hand wrote the LP title and song list on the ‘new’ outside cover. I had not heard of this LP, but what intrigued me was a note on the cover, “Perfect Blue Note with ears.“
If you are familiar with the search for original Blue Note LPs, there are several things to look for to determine if you have one or something made later. Or much later. The ‘ears’ are one of those things. The ‘ears’ are really the letter ‘P,’ hand written into the run out groove, or deadwax, on both sides of the LP (according to the all knowing, all seeing London Jazz Collector).
The circular label on the LP was wrong, though, and I knew it. It was the all blue colored Liberty-Blue Note label. And the ‘ears’ stopped appearing after 1966, while this LP was made in 1970. Something was amiss, but I took a chance on the record anyways. What the hell, right?
Turns out the ‘P’ in the deadwax wasn’t a P at all, but looks like a sideways ‘f.’ Close, but no cigar. So I don’t have some odd but early pressing, just a false sales pitch that got me to buy the LP…and it worked.
The good thing is that the music is excellent. By most online accounts, this record is the last good performance by Mobley on Blue Note and I would agree. This might not be Hank at his peak, but it’s still well worth listening to.
The Liberty Blue Notes are not known for their sound quality. My copy has a little groove damage, so that the loud sections are somewhat distorted. Still, I was pleased that the sound wasn’t too bad. Interestingly, the mix is semi-early stereo…meaning the drums are hard left, the horns hard right, with bass and piano in the center. I don’t mind, but a lot of people don’t care for this, particularly the drums and horns being so separated. I also noted that the bass came through quite nicely.
Like most Blue Note’s from the 50s and 60s, the head, or melody, of each song is attractive. “Talk About Gettin’ It” is a good example. The opening riffs (or head) get you into the tune, and are repeated at the end to tie the tune together. It’s one of the things I like about Blue Note jazz…the head played first, then solos, back to the head and out. Of course, this isn’t strictly a Blue Note thing, but it’s so prevalent in their records of this period that it seems to be a part of their style.
Side one opens with something a little different, a suite of three songs strung together. Thinking of Home, The Flight and Home at Last. I’m not sure they had to be strung together this way, they would have operated as separate songs equally well. Maybe Mobley was just trying something different. Home At Last is in a minor chordal mood and is reminiscent of other Mobley tunes.
Overall, Mobley sounds good here, if less athletic than his 50s and 60s work. Never the fastest player, he has slowed down. But the music is still rewarding.
And an unknown (to me), Eddie Diehl is on guitar. At first I thought it was Grant Green, as Diehl’s tone was similar. Unlike Green, Diehl wasn’t confined to the same riffs and runs that Green depends on. I hate to say it, but for me, Grant Green repeats himself too often. Diehl is a bit of a wanderer when he solos on The Flight, as if he’s not quite sure where he’s at. He’s better on Talk About Gettin’ it. He isn’t Green, he isn’t Burrell, either. He’s ok, I think I prefer him comping in the background than soloing.
Cedar Walton, a favorite I’ve heard live on a few occasions, is on piano. Cedar’s solos are solid, but not spectacular. I’d say that’s how this LP strikes me. It’s good stuff, but not the greatest Blue Note performance ever.
Trumpeter Woody Shaw blows with authority. His tone is bright and consistent. It might be the less than great recording quality, but his trumpet sounds confined and compressed. Too bad, because he’s probably the best of the musicians on the LP. I suspect the recording quality keeps this music from jumping outta the groove. Maybe the CD version of this recording is better.
I was particularly impressed with drummer LeRoy Williams’ solos on Gayle’s Groove. The whole tune is in a great groove and pulls you along. He lightly taps along nicely, adding to the textures of the song. Williams adds something to every tune if you give him a listen. His drumming helps keep the tunes from falling into too much of a rut.
I’m glad I bought this LP, even if the ‘ears’ turned out to be false advertising. I enjoyed it and if you are a fan of Mobley or Blue Note, you will too. Despite my reservations, it’s good music and worth buying if the price is right. Check out a brief medley of tunes, direct from my not so “perfect Blue Note with ears” LP!