December 16, 2016

Hank Mobley - No Room For Squares (1963)


It is understood that No Room For Squares has the best cover art of any Blue Note album (top five, at the very least), and it's even sweeter because the music doesn't disappoint at all. No Room For Squares could also strictly exist as an answer to a trivia question, and yes, jazz fans, I'm talking about Andrew Hill as a supporting pianist for Hank Mobley. Andrew Hill is one of the most inventive, complex, and serious jazz pianists of all time, and to see him listed as a sideman on the cover of an album led by a mediocre-plus bop saxophonist is surreal. Hill was a Blue Note newcomer in 1963, and I guess his appearance here was a way for Alfred Lion to sneak him into the label's main repertoire. The music is certainly odder than what you'll normally hear from Mobley, but it's nothing too crazy--and I think this mode fits Mobley better. I feel like Hank always got lost whenever he had to go toe-to-toe with other instrumentalists on brisk hard bop tracks (Johnny Griffin's Blowin Session with John Coltrane and Mobley is a good example), but he is always able to hold his ground on the moodier tracks and ballads. Lee Morgan's playing is at its most mature in 1963-1964--when he was recording Sidewinder and Search For The New Land--and the hard bop star of the past finds his stride with Andrew Hill like its second nature. Herbie Hancock and Donald Byrd have piano and trumpet duties on a couple tracks and really leave their signature styles ringing with the same dark, funky groove you can hear on A New Perspective and Royal Flush. No Room For Squares is an exceptional album mostly because of Lee Morgan and Andrew Hill, but I'll also give Mobley a shoutout for his solid compositions. One of the best from a busy and varied year for Blue Note.

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No Room For Squares