Rising to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s golden age of , he was up against slightly elder and more established musicians like Thelonious Monk, and who were at the height of their careers.
But whilst the careers of fellow sax players like Coltrane and are noted for their constant searching and transformational qualities, Mobley established himself firmly in the and soul styles where he excelled.
So, for this article, we set out to highlight some of the best records around!
Peckin’ Time (1958)
Born in Eastman, GA, in 1930 and growing up in Elizabeth, NJ, Mobley was exposed from a young age, but didn’t switch from piano to saxophone until the age of 16.
He was inspired by the early R’n’B musicians in the area (even joining some bands in this style) which is evident in his playing throughout his career.
Whilst he got his break signing to aged 25, it wasn’t until 3 years later, in 1958, that he began to receive widespread attention.
The release of ‘Peckin’ Time‘ (alongside ) showcases an artist really hitting his stride and is instantly noticeable as ; beautiful melodies and gently insistent swing, albeit slightly more bebop-influenced than his later outings. favourite
Peckin’ Time is also significant, as the album was the last before Mobley took a year-long break away from music, thanks to an arrest due to his burgeoning drug problem.
This year-long break led to a reorientation of his sound and his style as a performer; it’s not just a great listen, but an interesting snapshot of his development.
Whilst the opening track “Remember” gets the lions share of the attention, check out the uptempo Mobley original “This I Dig Of You” which has since become a mainstay of the standards repertoire.
As a side note, the album cover artwork is another classic from that era in the collaboration between (photo) and Reid Miles (design).
Roll Call (1961)
After the acclaimed ‘‘, Mobley (likely spurred on by the label) released two albums in quick succession.
The first of these – ‘Roll Call’ – was recorded just 9 months after , but is different in its own way.
With 5 out of the 6 tracks Mobley originals, he stamps his mark on the recording whilst giving space to rising star trumpeter to do his thing.
Hot on the heels of and Roll Call, ‘Workout’ completes the trilogy of this crucial period in Mobley’s development.
With the now-iconic album cover of Mobley crouched, smoking next to his saxophone, the addition of Grant Green on guitar adds another dimension to the group and to Mobley’s compositions.
Perhaps more so than Roll Call, it relaxes back into the typical Mobley groove; hard-swinging, blusey and feel-good.
Despite not passing away until 1986, was forced to retire in the mid-70s due to health issues brought on by smoking.
The ironically-named Breakthrough! (12 years after his actual breakthrough of ) was his final recording and was released as a double-header with pianist .
The album sticks out on this list as featuring another saxophonist – Charles Davis – alongside Mobley.
The soprano & baritone saxophone player adds a raw dimension to the music, as does the playing of Walton whose style is quite different to that of the earlier collaborations.
Despite that – or perhaps because of it – this is a fascinating album for anyone looking to trace the outline of ‘s career.
With the addition of Sam Jones and to the rhythm section, and with Charles Davis as a comparison, we hear that Mobley has lost none of his swinging, melodic spirit!
Thanks for joining us for this quick trip through some key releases in the discography of !
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