In the vast panorama of jazz, Sonny Rollins’ “Tenor…
Hank Mobley’s “Mobley’s Second Message” is a hard-hitting hard bop masterpiece that captures the essence of jazz’s golden era. Released in 1957 on the Prestige label, this album features some of the most exciting musicians of the time, including Mobley on tenor saxophone, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Walter Bishop Jr. on piano, Doug Watkins on bass, and Art Taylor on drums. Recorded in Rudy Van Gelder’s parents’ living room in Hackensack, New Jersey, “Mobley’s Second Message” has a raw and unvarnished sound that perfectly captures the spirit of the time.
As I listen to the album on my turntable, I’m struck by the immediacy of the sound. The opening track, “These Are the Things I Love,” sets the tone for the album with its soulful melody and swinging rhythm. Mobley’s saxophone playing is warm and inviting, with a rich tone that draws you in. Dorham’s trumpet playing is equally impressive, with a clear and bright sound that complements Mobley’s playing perfectly.
The rhythm section provides a solid foundation for the soloists, with Walter Bishop Jr.’s piano playing adding a harmonic complexity that keeps things interesting. Doug Watkins’ bass playing is steady and unobtrusive, providing a strong foundation for the rest of the group. Art Taylor’s drumming is dynamic and propulsive, driving the group forward with his impeccable sense of swing.
One of the standout tracks on the album is “Message from the Border,” a Latin-inflected tune that features some great solos by Mobley and Dorham. Mobley’s saxophone playing on this track is particularly impressive, with his warm and soulful tone perfectly capturing the mood of the tune. Dorham’s trumpet playing is equally impressive, with his bright and clear sound cutting through the mix.
Another standout track is “The Latest,” a fast-paced tune that features some great solos by all the members of the group. Mobley’s saxophone playing on this track is particularly impressive, with his inventive use of harmony and rhythm creating a sense of tension and release that keeps things interesting. Dorham’s trumpet playing is equally impressive, with his clean and precise sound adding a sense of clarity to the proceedings.
“Crazeology” is another standout track, with its fast-paced bebop melody and virtuosic solos by Mobley and Dorham. Mobley’s saxophone playing on this track is particularly impressive, with his lightning-fast runs and intricate melodic lines showing off his technical prowess. Dorham’s trumpet playing is equally impressive, with his fast and fluid lines adding a sense of urgency to the proceedings.
What makes “Mobley’s Second Message” such a classic album is the way that it captures the classic jazz sound of the time. Mobley’s saxophone playing is firmly rooted in the bebop and hard bop traditions of jazz, with a warm and soulful tone that draws from the blues. His playing is characterized by his strong sense of swing, his inventive use of harmony, and his lyrical and melodic improvisation.
Dorham’s trumpet playing is equally impressive, with a distinctive personal approach that draws from the Navarro out of Gillespie style. His sound is bright and clear, with a precise and rhythmic approach that perfectly complements Mobley’s playing. Together, they create a sound that is both classic and timeless, with a sense of urgency and vitality that perfectly captures the spirit of the times.
Upon its release, “Mobley’s Second Message” was viewed as a classic album that captured the essence of hard bop jazz. Its critical and commercial success solidified Hank Mobley as one of the most important tenor saxophonists of his time and established the Messengers as one of the premier jazz groups of the era.
But the importance and impact of “Mobley’s Second Message” extends far beyond its initial reception. Today, the album remains a touchstone of the hard bop tradition, with its classic sound and exciting solos inspiring new generations of jazz musicians.
The album’s influence can be heard in the work of countless jazz musicians who have followed in Mobley’s footsteps, from Sonny Rollins to Joe Lovano to Joshua Redman. Its enduring popularity speaks to the timeless quality of the music, with its soulful melodies and swinging rhythms capturing the essence of jazz at its best.
As I listen to “Mobley’s Second Message” again, I’m struck by the sheer joy and exuberance of the music. The album is a testament to the power of jazz to uplift and inspire, with its vibrant solos and driving rhythms creating a sense of excitement and energy that is hard to resist.
In the end, “Mobley’s Second Message” is more than just a classic jazz album. It’s a testament to the enduring power of music to move and inspire us, to uplift us in times of darkness and to celebrate the joy of life. It’s a reminder of the incredible talents of Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham, Walter Bishop Jr., Doug Watkins, and Art Taylor, and a celebration of their collective contributions to the art of jazz.
So if you haven’t listened to “Mobley’s Second Message” yet, I urge you to give it a spin. Experience the timeless beauty and excitement of this classic album for yourself, and discover why it remains a touchstone of the hard bop tradition to this day.