Hank Mobley & Wynton Kelly

Hank Mobley: The Best Things In Life Are Free

The other day I was having dinner and listening back through Hank Mobley's Workout (an old favorite) when I came across an intriguing moment within the song The Best Things In Life Are Free. The most shocking part was that despite having heard this track an innumerable amount of times, I had never previously noticed this gesture and how spectacular the musicianship within it was.

One quality of a truly remarkable performance is that there is often one note and/or one phrase that can encapsulate the grace, fire, virtuosity, subtlety, or authenticity of the artist. I believe it is the duty of all Listeners and Performers to seek out, catalog, & utilize these gestures as references to further inform their aural pallets.

The album Workout was released in 1961 and featured the personnel of Hank Mobley (tenor sax) Wynton Kelly (piano) Grant Green (guitar) Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). This Blue Note release is an absolute classic from the label that defined what classic means. The album (and this article) also features the striking photography of Francis Wolff who had enviable job of photographing Blue Note rehearsals and recording sessions. Nevertheless, the moment for consideration can be found at 4:25 and does not come from Hank Mobley. What blew me away here is the tossed off piano gesture from Wynton Kelly at the conclusion of the first phrase of the tune. This slippery little chromatic gesture then locks into harmony with Mobley on the second phrase is a beautiful and subtle display of musicianship and discerning taste from our man on piano. I cannot recommend highly enough that you pocket this moment and use it as reference in all your future jazz endeavors.

For my money this is a magnificent moment in ensemble performance and is worth the cost of the album alone. If you agree you can purchase the record via itunes here. Listening critically for the purpose of cataloging gestures, tone color, note choice, and all other forms of extreme sensitivity is a rewarding way of deepening your relationship with you favorite records, and further developing your already discerning ear. You dig?