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Hank Mobley‘s “Workout,” an iconic album from the early 1960s, captures the essence of jazz at its finest. The record, filled with original compositions and powerful performances, showcases Mobley’s skill as a saxophonist and his ability to assemble an extraordinary group of musicians. Let’s dive into this exceptional piece of jazz history and explore the magic behind its creation.
“Workout” was recorded on March 26, 1961, under the prestigious Blue Note label. The legendary Rudy Van Gelder engineered the sessions at his renowned studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The album would later be recognized as one of Mobley’s best works, making it a landmark release in the jazz world.
Hank Mobley, the man behind the album, was a highly influential tenor saxophonist with a distinctive tone and style. Known for his melodic solos and rhythmic prowess, Mobley was a sought-after sideman and leader during his time. Before the “Workout” sessions, he had played with jazz greats like Horace Silver and Art Blakey.
Accompanying Mobley on guitar was Grant Green, a rising star in the jazz scene. Green’s unique blend of bebop and blues made him a perfect fit for Mobley’s vision. Prior to this session, he had made a name for himself playing alongside jazz legends like Lou Donaldson and Jimmy Smith.
The talented Wynton Kelly took charge of the piano. Known for his bluesy, soulful playing, Kelly had already made an impact in the jazz world as a member of the Miles Davis Quintet. He brought his characteristic style and energy to the “Workout” sessions, elevating the album to new heights.
On bass, we find the incomparable Paul Chambers, whose innovative playing and impeccable technique made him an essential figure in the jazz community. Before joining Mobley’s quintet, Chambers had worked with many jazz luminaries, including John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins.
Finally, the legendary Philly Joe Jones powered the drums. His masterful sense of swing and dynamic approach to rhythm made him a perfect choice for Mobley’s quintet. Jones had previously played with the likes of Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk, further solidifying his place in jazz history.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Uh Huh,” a grooving number that showcases each musician’s unique talents. Mobley’s saxophone soars with fluid, melodic lines while Green’s guitar solos are a masterclass in blues-infused bebop. Kelly’s piano work is particularly impressive, as his soulful playing adds depth and emotion to the piece. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Chambers and Jones provides a rock-solid foundation, driving the song forward with infectious energy.
Another standout track is “Workout,” the album’s title piece. The song is a high-octane tour de force, with Mobley’s saxophone taking center stage. Green’s guitar and Kelly’s piano solos add further excitement, while the impeccable rhythm section propels the song with relentless swing.
“Smokin'” is a hard bop gem that highlights Mobley’s ability to craft catchy, memorable melodies. Green’s guitar work is especially noteworthy here, as he navigates the intricate chord changes with ease. Kelly, Chambers, and Jones round out the ensemble, providing a dynamic and exciting backdrop for the soloists.
Lastly, “Greasin’ Easy” showcases the quintet’s mastery of the blues. Mobley’s soulful saxophone takes the lead, while Green’s guitar and Kelly’s piano work provide tasteful counterpoints. The rhythm section shines once again, with Chambers and Jones offering a masterclass in jazz groove.
The musical style of “Workout” is rooted in hard bop, a subgenre of jazz that emerged in the 1950s as a response to the cool jazz movement. Hard bop is characterized by its bluesy melodies, complex harmonies, and rhythmic intensity. Mobley’s compositions on “Workout” brilliantly exemplify these elements, creating an album that is both accessible and sophisticated.
Upon its release, “Workout” received high praise from critics and fans alike. The album’s innovative compositions and stellar performances propelled it to the forefront of the jazz scene. Mobley’s unique approach to hard bop, along with the formidable talents of his quintet, made “Workout” a standout album in a time when jazz was experiencing an explosion of creativity and growth.
Today, “Workout” is still viewed as a seminal album in the jazz canon. Its timeless appeal and enduring influence continue to resonate with new generations of listeners and musicians. The album serves as a testament to Mobley’s talent as a composer and performer, securing his place among the jazz greats.
In conclusion, Hank Mobley’s “Workout” is a remarkable album that showcases the brilliance of one of jazz’s most talented saxophonists. The stellar lineup of musicians, the unforgettable compositions, and the expertly crafted performances make this album a true gem. Its impact on the jazz world is undeniable, and its legacy continues to inspire musicians and listeners alike. “Workout” is an essential album for any jazz enthusiast and a shining example of hard bop at its finest.