Artist: Hank Mobley
Album: No Room For Squares
Label (Year): Blue Note (1963)
For Fans of: Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard
Words by Gummo Clare
Coming from an era stuffed with incredible jazz releases from some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, this is an album that rarely gets a look-in on ‘best of’ lists, both in terms of jazz generally and hard bop in particular – it’s not normally even seen as one of Mobley’s best albums.
But a quick look at the personnel on the album shows why it’s worthy of attention, even in amongst the host of similar, and more famous albums of the period: everyone featured on the record are renowned jazz musicians. In fact, Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd and of course Herbie Hancock would go on to be far more well-known in the years following this album as frontmen. As a result of the stellar musicianship, this album is well worth a listen. The presence on drums of Philly Joe Jones makes it worthwhile alone: he was notoriously difficult to work with, and recorded comparatively rarely. His drumming on this is interesting throughout.
Stylistically, the album is straight-up hard bop, but the ballad ‘Carolyn’ and the wonky blues ‘Me ‘N You’, both by Morgan provide variations in tempo and feel. One appealing feature of the album is that it manages to combine virtuosity and improvisation with genuinely great tunes, particularly the theme on the title track. This track, as well as the opener ‘Three Way Split’ are examples of hard bop at its best – particularly the short solos in the breaks on both tracks, where Morgan’s incursions are incendiary.
In the context of jazz and hard bop around the time of the album’s release, No Room For Squares is rarely seen as remotely stand-out. Hank Mobley himself isn’t considered in the same league as some of the other tenor sax players who were at their prime in this period, such as John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Despite this, it’s both well-crafted and well-arranged with catchy tunes and great musicianship, and is especially worth listening to if you’re looking for accessible jazz from this period.
Hank Mobley: Tenor Sax
Lee Morgan: Trumpet (except tracks 3 and 6)
Donald Byrd: Trumpet (3,6)
Andrew Hill: Piano (except 3 and 6)
Herbie Hancock: Piano (3,6)
John Ore: Bass (except 3 and 6)
Butch Warren: Bass (3,6)
Philly Joe Jones: Drums