Better than it has a right to be
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 06/09/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's admittedly somewhat sad to see the direction Mobley was forced to take just prior to practically disappearing from the music scene altogether. (Seeing him perform live in the early 70's and beyond was difficult to take--all the more so for anyone who recalled his vibrant work with Blakey, his stellar early solo sessions on Blue Note, or his inspired playing on the Miles Davis' Blackhawk sessions.)
After hearing the first track--a wretched and dated pop tune reduced to its rudiments and played, moreover, in the original key of E--I was ready to toss this album. But the three Mobley tunes provide much of substance in terms of Hank's compositional ideas as well as his soloing. Moreover, "Goin' Out of My Head" features some surprisingly inventive Mobley (even though I had to force myself to listen to the tune a second time before realizing it). You may remember that Wes Montgomery's instrumental cover of this tune was a hit, and the inclusion of George Benson on this recording was a happy inspiration, allowing the virtuoso guitarist to show off both his soul/pop and jazz chops. The final tune, Lamont Johnson's "Beverly," is a forgettable "Maiden Voyage" wannabe, but there's plenty of meat between the first and last tunes of this session.
Certainly "Reach Out!" is no more of a sell-out than any number of albums--"period pieces"--under the leadership of Sonny Stitt, who exchanged his Bird-like virtuosity for pop sessions like "Little Green Apples" and "Mr. Bojangles," or who allowed his rich and radiant natural sound to be distorted by an electronic device called the "Varitone." But with Sonny, there were approximately 150 dates under his own name, making it somewhat easier to look beyond the fluff. At the same time, I'd hate to think that listeners new to either Mobley or Stitt might base their judgment of either saxophonist upon what were essentially desperate attempts to make a living.
Rank this session ahead of another late Mobley date--the recently reissued "Hi Voltage." (The supportive liner notes by none other than Nat Hentoff are another plus.) But under no circumstances should you consider picking up this album before obtaining at least 5-6 more vital Mobley sides."