Blue Note Records B0022593-01
Musical Performance: ***1/2
Sound Quality: ****
Overall Enjoyment: ****
Blue Note’s 75th-anniversary vinyl release series continues until the end of October, and one recent series of reissues included this 1965 Hank Mobley title comprising two sessions, one from March 7, 1963 and the other from February 5, 1965. Additional tracks from the earlier session had appeared in 1964, on No Room for Squares, and two others would show up on Straight No Filter, a vault-clearing 1986 release that included work from four different sessions.
While it was unusual to build an LP around recordings separated by two years, The Turnaround has been well regarded enough to be released in a Rudy Van Gelder edition and now as part of Blue Note president Don Was’s vinyl initiative celebrating the label’s history. Mobley recorded extensively for Blue Note, and while many of his recordings have drifted in and out of print, two are certified classics: Soul Station and Roll Call, both from 1960.
The Turnaround is not up to the standards of those records, but Mobley is in good voice on both sessions. He does sound somewhat different on each. On the earlier session, his tone is rounder and more fluid. On the later session, he plays with a more stabbing attack and sounds like he is thinking his ideas through carefully as he plays them.
A comparison of the ballads, one from each session, illustrates the changes in his style, even as they show his command of the form. “The Good Life” contains more sustained notes and a more pronounced vibrato, while Mobley’s own “My Sin” has shorter phrases and a more relaxed rhythmic feel, with bursts of quick phrases inserted among melodic lines that Mobley plays with a varied approach to the beat.
The title track, from the 1965 session, is a soul-jazz outing that fits the rhythm section -- Barry Harris on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums -- like a glove. Blue Note’s co-founder, Alfred Lion, encouraged his musicians to write tunes that echoed Lee Morgan’s 1963 hit, “The Sidewinder,” and “The Turnaround” certainly answered that request. Oddly, Mobley’s solo is somewhat tentative, but Freddie Hubbard, on trumpet, comes out burning and Harris’s gospel-blues playing keeps the tune swinging.
That same group is on “My Sin,” “Straight Ahead,” and “Pat ’N’ Chat.” The ensemble playing is tight, and Hubbard’s solos are impressively fast and melodically audacious on the latter two, hard bop tracks. Harris’s solos are well developed and emotionally satisfying, and the rest of the rhythm section keeps things rolling.
Donald Byrd is the trumpeter on the 1963 session, with Herbie Hancock on piano, Butch Warren on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. “East of the Village” has a slight Latin feel, which Jones is particularly adept at. Byrd is as skilled as Hubbard, but plays at a more measured pace, with a blusier feel. Hancock is a somewhat more emphatic player than Harris, with less gospel influence, at least on this session.
While Van Gelder’s CD remaster from 2000 is generally good, this new LP cut by Bernie Grundman from a high-resolution digital file is less top-heavy, and certain details -- such as Higgins’ kick-drum accents -- are stronger and easier to hear. Mobley’s tenor meshes more naturally with Hubbard and Byrd in the ensemble sections, while on CD the instruments feel somewhat separated. Both pianists benefit from the vinyl, with more sustain and a better presentation of the harmonic structure of the chords.
The pressing is good, but I cleaned it well before playing it and it could have been quieter. I feel compelled to point out that of the 12 or so pressings I have picked up from this series, I had to return two for noise or bad warps, and in one case, a pressing of Grant Green’s I Want to Hold Your Hand, I had to return it three times before it was acceptable -- and it still wasn’t as good as it should have been. I hope Blue Note decides to do another vinyl reissue series after this one ends in October. Next time, though, someone else should press them.
. . . Joseph Taylor