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No Room For Squares
LP (12" album, 33 rpm)
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No Room For Squares (The Rudy Van Gelder Edition)
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Audio CD, Extra tracks, Original recording remastered, September 12, 2000
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Originally released in 1963 by tenor saxophonist, Hank Mobley, No Room for Squares features Lee Morgan and Donald Byrd on trumpet, Andrew Hill and Herbie Hancock on piano, John Ore and Butch Warren on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. No Room for Squares will be released as part of an overall Blue Note 75th anniversary vinyl initiative spearheaded by current Blue Note Records President, Don Was.
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So, musically I would go 5 stars without a second thought, but as far as a vinyl release goes, I would go for a CD copy instead.
I indiscriminately purchase anything by or with Mobley recorded between 1954 and 1962, no reservations needed. However, beginning with "No Room for Squares" and the sessions from 1963 onwards, a listener is best advised to exercise some caution. Mobley was being pressured--by Blue Note Records (Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine were paying the bills for the studio) and by the trends of the sixties (whether Trane modal harmonics or heavy-duty funk)--to "modernize" his music (i.e. more modal tunes, more ad nauseum riff tunes on the order of "Sidewinder," deeper and more physical grooves) and as a result can be heard forcing his sound, simplifying his compositions, and gradually and very sadly self-destructing throughout the late '60's and into the '70's.
Such transformations are just beginning to become noticeable with "No Room for Squares" which, happily, is still prime-time Mobley despite the more aggressive edge to his sound and a few attempts to disguise the overly familiar with "hopefully hip" melodic-harmonic choices. Listen to him handle the "I Got Rhythm Changes" for a full seven inspired choruses on the opening "Three-Way Split," showcased in the best possible light by Philly Joe's elegant hipness, and giving a harmonic "clinic" to Lee Morgan, who provides a spirited follow-up to Mobley's stellar inventions under the circumstances (slightly ragged and repetitious compared to Hank but rescuing his solo with an extemporaneous-sounding quote from "And the Angels Sing."
With the opening "Rhythm" tune, plus an exquisite ballad, an infectious blues, and a driving modal melody on the title number, "No Room for Squares" is an album which, despite the somewhat exclusive and limiting, elitist-sounding title, deserves and is likely to satisfy the widest (discerning) audience possible.
In any case, this is an excellent album. Mobley wrote 4 of the tunes while Morgan wrote the other 2. I think Morgan is actually a better composer than Mobley, or at least capable of more variety. His "Carolyn" is a beautiful ballad with tasteful contrapuntal blowing by Mobley underneath Morgan's statement of the theme. Morgan's "Me 'N You" is another funky tune in the "Sidewinder" lineage. However, Mobley's tunes are also good; they're all upbeat and energetic. Byrd provides nice trumpet solos on "Up A Step" and "Old World, New Imports". The latter has a nice arrangement for the horns and a nice drum solo by Jones.
So, this album has plenty of variety, both in its staffing and in its compositions.