It’s funny that I would pick this album after my Coltrane blog post. During the heaviest point of my Coltrane obsession, it was admittedly difficult for me to honestly hear many other tenor players. Don’t get me wrong, I loved a great spectrum of the music, but it took me taking a serious Trane hiatus during my late teens/early twenties to open up long enough to hear Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, and Hank Mobley — cats who join Coltrane in my Top 5 favs today.
Soul Station is one of the most authentically grooving, swinging, bluesy, and well, soulful albums of its era. You can certainly credit the ensemble which accompanies Mobley. Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Art Blakey on drums. You can almost hear the funkiness just hearing those names together, can’t you? The repertoire to showcase these elements of their talents could not be more stellar. Mobley’s originals sound more like classic standards repertoire…mainly because of the memorable melodies and catchiness of the tunes. There isn’t a ballad on this record. For all intents and purposes, this is one of jazz music’s best examples of a dance record. In striking contrast to jazz that had become stigmatized as needing to be “observed” versus having a more participatory element, this album is meant to be moved to, there’s no doubt about it, even on Mobley’s takes on classics like “Remember” and “If I Should Lose You”. It’s hard to stay in your seat listening to this record.
Abundance of soul, does not mean lack of sophistication, as sometimes mistakenly philosophized, and Mobley exemplifies this perfectly. A perfect mixture of brawn and elegance, groove and fluidity, this aspect of Mobley is what makes him one of my favorites. An unsung hero of his time, for sure.