March 2009

Gil Melle - Patterns in Jazz
Blue Note/Music Matters MMBLP-1517
Format: LP
Originally released: 1956
Reissue released: 2009

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Hank Mobley - Hank Mobley
Blue Note/Music Matters MMBLP-1568
Format: LP
Originally released: 1957
Reissue released: 2009

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

by Marc Mickelson

Each month Music Matters rolls out two more Blue Note titles on a pair of 45rpm LPs remastered in purist fashion and pressed with extreme care. Up to this point, each release has been in stereo, as the sessions were recorded. In keeping with the label's expressed commitment to utter authenticity, the first two mono Music Matters titles have appeared, with a couple others scheduled for release later this year. Both are noteworthy -- musically and historically.

Gil Melle's Patterns in Jazz was one of the very earliest Blue Note recordings made in Rudy Van Gelder's first studio -- his parents' Hackensack, New Jersey living room. Melle was a painter as well as a musician, and his husky baritone sax splatters the music here with instrumental color. Much of the appeal of this music comes from the interplay between Melle's sax and Eddie Bert's trombone, with Joe Cinderella's guitar, Oscar Pettiford's bass and Ed Thigpen's drums filling out this no-piano quintet. Four of the tunes are probing Melle originals, and these sandwich a pair of well-worn covers, "Moonlight in Vermont" and "Long Ago (and Far Away)," that sound fresh because of the unusual instrumental lineup and fleet playing.

Hank Mobley is best known to jazz collectors as "1568," its catalog number. It is one of the rarest and most-sought-after Blue Note titles extant. The rumor is that fewer than 500 were pressed; even examples in middling condition bring four-figure prices. Saxophonist Mobley was one of Blue Note's most enduring figures, a stellar performer, and a hard-bop master. Here he shares some of the blowing spotlight with trumpeter Bill Hardman and altoist Curtis Porter, who contributed "Mighty Moe and Joe" and "News," which open and close the set. Sonny Clark on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Art Taylor on drums round out the lineup with style -- each led Blue Note sessions. There are horns aplenty, the saxes trading solos on many of the cuts, and the energy stays high because of it. This is an agile sextet making vital music.

The sound of these two mono releases is rather different, with Patterns in Jazz presenting a duskier view and a more closed-in perspective, while Hank Mobley shows great delineation of instrumental lines and a fiery presence that those expensive originals won't attain. Played back with a mono cartridge, these LPs are for connoisseurs of significant music reproduced with the best sound possible -- people like you and me.