More than a hunch expect the beginnings of a Hank Mobley resurgence this autumn. Cometh the hour cometh the man to roll with it. And that man is Eli Degibri. Well if you have heard him play whether live or on record you will know it is all about a certain tone, a deep feeling for jazz, and an improviser’s unerring intuition to shape a solo. As for Mobley, Blue Note collectors simply adore him.
A bit of background Degibri first made a splash on his superb quartet album Israeli Song with Brad Mehldau, the great Ron Carter and Al Foster, released in 2010. Who the heck was this guy anyway?
Then nothing. In 2013 through a stroke of luck I happened to be there in Soho at Pizza Express Jazz Club when Degibri, above, made his London debut as a leader after the Shearing Hour I helped put on that night.
That night Eli [rhymes with telly] was with Aaron Goldberg on piano, the bespectacled Barak Mori, providing a stimulating range of strong narrative departures on double bass, and the then 19-year-old new star of the drums, Ofri Nehemya.
Classic ballad ‘Body and Soul’, at the end of the second set, was the icing on the cake of a superb performance. Afterwards I chatted to him briefly and as an opening gambit said how much I admired a tattoo on his bare arm, the first thing that came into my head. He beamed.
Five years on just a matter of a little more than a month until release here is Eli says about the Mobley Soul Station project on his own website:
“Hank Mobley did something with his saxophone playing that no one else could. This is the source of his unique genius: Hank was able to be tender in an era where ‘hard' bop was the main platform for emotional expression. Unlike the tenderness that came from the West Coast style (Chet Baker and Stan Getz for example), Hank’s lyricism still had that Afro-American soulfulness. This made his playing confusing to many people. Remember that Hank collaborated with some of the “roughest" and “toughest" musicians of his time, such as Miles and Blakey. He was a mirror to their gentle side. He was an extension of their soul… the part that perhaps they were afraid to always show. Remember it was Miles himself who asked Hank to join his band. And that for a musician there is no higher declaration of love.
Hank’s playing breaks my heart every time I listen to him. With his loud whisper, he says: I’m here and I don’t have to be grandiose about it. Just come a little closer and take a glimpse into my soul – it’s both fragile and beautiful.” SG
Allay that nagging fear of missing out, and clock the state of the art ZuperOctave, that’s who: above left-right Little Big’s Aaron Parks on synths, Fender Rhodes electric piano and piano, leader Gilad Hekselman guitar and Kendrick (‘Oracle’) Scott on drums and pads.
Cardiff and London dates roll up this autumn as part of a wider European tour, full info about which here.
Tastemakers. Yes, tastemakers. Trade titles like to trot out that word a good deal when not working on a detailed pie chart about the latest mood app. I suppose everyone secretly thinks that they are a tastemaker. Bemonikered “tastemakers”, I kid you not, they do exist, often hidden under other job titles. Of course they are entitled to their tastes. However, the reality is that they are professional flipchart jugglers, spreadsheet magicians, three-piece suit connoisseurs, diamond geezers, members of several gyms, owners of extensive portions of Jeff Lynne’s back catalogue, readers of the runes or if their act bombs, ruins. That taste is theirs and theirs alone, often not shared by too many others apart from people in their direct employment.
True tastemakers are thin on the ground and actually here is the science bit you probably will not know that they have shaped your taste at all. Uncanny! Marketing mesmerists dream equally about word of mouth publicity as they do waistcoats however, the up to date status of their barnets and presence of lint on their otherwise spotless window sills are also pressing concerns.
Jazz is extremely niche despite all the Colin Welland-esque exaggerations when a few bands get talked up a bit in the States, tour over there and in Canada before returning for their next bread-and-butter nine-date tour of the East Midlands. Jazz tastemakers are not necessarily anyone that you have ever heard of or will possibly ever do such is their badger-like levels of introversion. Badgers, it is true, are not often to be seen DJ-ing unlike a few so-called tastemakers.
Final controversial word, taste is not hierarchical. Your pitiful much cooed over taste is no worse than anyone else’s because it is yours carefully acquired over the years trying to avoid what bitter experience has taught to avoid which is what tastemakers want to provide and actually giving you inordinate pleasure. Dear reader trust your taste, don’t let anyone foist theirs on you. That is all.
By Steve, down the garage taken from a Tannoy recording made on a Huawei P20 Pro translated from the original Flemish by a friend of the author’s later transcribed and lightly edited for sense by the marlbank typing pool team. Kindly submitted, thanks.
Whither the Withers? Well witter no more, the album confirmed for a 28 September release Lean on Me is a José James mass market aimed celebration of the ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ singer-songwriter’s back catalogue and very credible it is too going on sufficient glimpses so far. Bill Withers turned 80 in the mid-summer.
JJ has Pino Palladino (bass), remember his epic figure on ‘Trouble’, Kris Bowers (keys), Brad Allen Williams (guitar) and Nate Smith (drums) in the rhythm section at the heart of the sound among the collective personnel. And in a certain pride of place on an instantly familiar song ‘Lovely Day’ guest features soul goddess Lalah Hathaway. JJ already a big draw on both sides of the Atlantic, if Lean on Me works out he will be heading stratospheric and if not at the very least will consolidate his position as one of the world's very best jazz-influenced male singers. ‘Use Me,’ heard top, which was on the 1972 Still Bill album, is the sixth track. SG