Jazz at 100 Hour 62: Hard Bop Tenor, Part 1

Hank Mobley

“Hard bop both needed and got a kind of second wind in the early sixties, and this had something to do with Ornette Coleman’s rejection of conventional chord changes, but it had far more to do with developments inside the school: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, Coltrane’s evolution, and the influences of Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. These developments rescued hard bop from its own formulas, emboldening its young practitioners to cut loose and to expand what the school could encompass emotionally and formally.” – David Rosenthal

Over the next four hours of Jazz at 100, we’ll be featuring tenor players and trumpeters who propelled hard bop into the 1960s. In this hour, we will start with tenor players JR Monterose, LA-based Harold Land and Teddy Edwards, and Blue Note’s most prolific player Hank Mobley.

JR Monterose.
“Monterose’s solo [and eponymous] Blue Note record boasts an enviable personnel [Ira Sullivan-trumpet, Horace Silver-piano, Wilbur Ware-b, Philly Joe Jones-d]… In future years, Monterose was to work with obscure rhythm sections, mostly in out of the way places, but here the label’s collegial approach delivers him a powerful rhythm section – one of Ware’s best showings of the period – and a strong front-line partner in Sullivan… The music is mostly in a sophisticated hard-bop vein. Two versions of ‘Wee-Jay’ give a measure of how tightly Monterose conceived and executed his music. He doesn’t sound like anyone else on this. Silver plays on insouciantly but makes it work, and Sullivan, who’s perhaps no clearer what’s going on some of the time, contents himself with tight, well thought-out solo statements that don’t go on too long. It’s an unusual set, though it isn’t always easy to put a finger on why, and it stands tall with Blue Note’s other progressive recordings of the day.” Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Wee-Jay. J.R. Monterose Quintet
(Ira Sullivan-tp, J.R. Monterose-ts, Horace Silver-p, Wilbur Ware-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From J.R. Monterose. 10/21/1956
Composed by JR Monterose

The Third. J.R. Monterose Quintet
(Ira Sullivan-tp, J.R. Monterose-ts, Horace Silver-p, Wilbur Ware-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From J.R. Monterose. 10/21/1956
Composed by Donald Byrd

Harold Land.
“Land was raised in San Diego and quickly became a fixture on the West Coast scene of the late ’50s and ’60s. He worked with Curtis Counce and Max Roach and got round to making some records under his own name. An underrated player, hampered by a rather dour tone which masks the originality of his thinking, he made two records that belong in the top flight, [The Fox] and the slightly earlier Harold In The Land Of Jazz. Any apparent resemblance at this point to Sonny Rollins (who’d also worked with Roach) is incidental. Land’s delivery was less effusive, not so much spilling out notes and dealing them deftly. One senses that the compositions are always more important than their potential for soloing, and on his own lines, ‘The Fox’ and ‘Little Chris’, he seems quite content to stay close to the material.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

The Fox. Harold Land Quintet
(Dupree Bolton-tp, Harold Land-ts, Elmo Hope-p, Herbie Lewis-b, Frank Butler-d). From The Fox. 8/1959
Composed by Harold Land

Little Chris. Harold Land Quintet
(Dupree Bolton-tp, Harold Land-ts, Elmo Hope-p, Herbie Lewis-b, Frank Butler-d). From The Fox. 8/1959
Composed by Harold Land

Teddy Edwards.
Teddy’s Ready … has a timeless vigour that makes it endlessly replayable. It followed a period of ill-health – not drugs-related – and one can hear the relief and delight in the over-hasty attack on ‘Scrapple From The Apple’ and ‘Take The “A” Train’. In later years, Edwards was reliably to be found behind the beat. Not a great deal is known nowadays about Arizonan Castro; he tends to be thought of as a fine accompanist (Anita O’Day, June Christy) who never quite made it as a straight jazz player. On this showing he’s more than worthy, and the support of his colleagues goes without saying: Vinnegar’s legendary walk is sure-footed and firm and Higgins plays music on the kit, as ever.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Scrapple from the Apple. Teddy Edwards Quartet
(Teddy Edwards-ts, Joe Castro-p, Leroy Vinnegar-b, Billy Higgins-d). From Teddy’s Ready. 8/17/1960
Composed by Charlie Parker

Take The “A” Train. Teddy Edwards Quartet
(Teddy Edwards-ts, Joe Castro-p, Leroy Vinnegar-b, Billy Higgins-d). From Teddy’s Ready. 8/17/1960
Composed by Billy Strayhorn

Hank Mobley.
“Mobley isn’t necessarily remembered as a cutting-edge jazz innovator… Compared with the two creative pillars of the time, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, Mobley mostly worked within the accepted language of hard bop, and there may not have been anyone with better mastery of that language. Where Rollins, and especially Coltrane worked at the outer limits of the music, often teetering over the edge of the cliff just barely hanging on, Mobley filled the music’s inner framework with some of the most compelling, structurally solid compositions and improvisations of the era. He stayed away from excesses like free blowing or atonality, and his playing—while hot and emotive—has a certain architectural quality to it. His music is built on well-honed skill and intellectual deliberation.” – Greg Simmons

”‘Up A Step’ [from the LP No Time For Squares] embraces the modal concepts of Davis’ Kind of Blue… Hancock shows that he’s clearly internalized Bill Evans’ piano playing, and, not to be outdone, Mobley’s own solo briefly echoes Coltrane’s announcement on ‘So What.’ It would be fair to say that this track is an application of what was, at the time, one of the most innovative new directions in jazz; perhaps not ground breaking in its own right, but a well-played implementation of new concept. Mobley was not generally known as a balladeer, so the inclusion [on the LP The Turnaround!] of ‘The Good Life’ was a little unusual. He conjures creamy, bourbon melancholy, full of emotive weight and poignancy from his tenor horn. Warren’s bass adds big round drops of bottom heft in front of Hancock’s slow, heavy chords. Mobley should have played a few more ballads. He was good at it.” – Greg Simmons

Up A Step. Hank Mobley Quintet
(Donald Byrd-tp, Hank Mobley-ts, Herbie Hancock-p, Butch Warren-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From No Room For Squares. 3/7/1963
Composed by Hank Mobley

The Good Life. Hank Mobley Quintet
(Donald Byrd-tp, Hank Mobley-ts, Herbie Hancock-p, Butch Warren-b, Philly Joe Jones-d). From The Turnaround!. 3/7/1963

While JR Monterose faded away as the 1960s began, Harold Land remained an active player, performing and teaching at UCLA into the 1990s. Teddy Edwards was active until the early 2000s, including recordings and tours with Tom Waits. Hank Mobley recorded prolifically during the 1960s for Blue Note as a leader and sideman. He was forced to retire from music in the early 1970s due to lung issues.

We will continue our survey of Hard Bop Tenor Players in the next hour with Jimmy Heath, Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins.

Recordings.
J.R. Monterose. J.R. Monterose. Blue Note BLP 1536
Harold Land. The Fox. Contemporary M 3619
Teddy Edwards. Teddy’s Ready. Contemporary M 3583
Hank Mobley. No Room For Squares. Blue Note BLP 4149
Hank Mobley. The Turnaround! Blue Note BLP 4186

Resources.
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
J.R. Monterose. J.R. Monterose
Harold Land. The Fox
Teddy Edwards. Teddy’s Ready
Rosenthal, David. 1992. Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955-1965. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Power of Badness
Simmons, Greg. 2013. Hank Mobley: The Feelin’s Good. All About Jazz. March 31, 2013

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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