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Hank Mobley

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Widely regarded as one of the most underrated jazz musicians, Hank Mobley's tender tenor sax style - which saw him described by one leading critic as "the middleweight champion of tenor sax" - gave him a pioneering influence over the 'hard bop' tributary of jazz. His style cut a happy medium between the cool, seductive tone of a Stan Getz or Lester Young and the hard, aggressive sounds created by the likes of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins.

Born in Eastman, Georgia but raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, his family were involved in church music and Mobley's first instrument was piano. But he was given a saxophone by his grandmother as a way of fending off boredom while confined to the house during a long illness when he was 16. He was mostly self-taught, studying at home through books and began to play with local bands like Paul Gayten's R&B band during his late teens, going on to work with luminaries such as Dizzie Gillespie and Max Roach. He went on to play in early hard bop sessions balancing sophistication and soul and became an influential member of Horace Silver's Jazz Messengers, his intricate rhythm patterns becoming an integral part of their sound. The Messengers split in 1956 and he recorded his first solo album 'Mobley's Message' the same year with Jackie McLean and Donald Byrd. He went on to record over 20 albums for Blue Note Records between 1956 and 1970, including his most acclaimed works 'Soul Station' and 'Roll Call' (both 1960) and went on to perform with many of the other leading figures in the hard bop genre such as Grant Green, Freddie Hubbard and Sonny Clark. He also worked briefly with Miles Davis, playing alongside John Coltrane on the 'Someday My Prince Will Come' album, but a tempestuous relationship ended when he quit the Davis band in 1960.

He hit another purple patch in 1965, developing a funkier, more soulful sound with the 'Caddy for Daddy' album, which brought him a fresh audience. However, he was beset by ill health and was forced to retire due to lung problems in the mid-1970s, although he did make a comeback in the 1980s, playing in a quartet with Duke Jordan and singer Lodi Carr. He died of pneumonia in 1985, aged 55.