This set features four different sessions which tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley recorded as a leader before he got to Blue Note label. Recorded in 1953 and 1956, Mobley is in four distinct settings here. The first two sessions are with Max Roach on drums, and one has a front line with Idrees Sulieman on trumpet, Gigi Gryce on alto, Franklin Skeete on bass, and Walter Davis, Jr. on piano. The second with Roach, also from that year, strips away the other horns into a quartet. This material is notable for its three Mobley compositions -- "Kismet," "Mobleyization," and "Orientation," as well as several by Roach, including the stellar "Cou-Manchi Cou." The latter material is significant because Mobley's sidemen include drummer Kenny Clarke, and Donald Byrd, as well as two different pianists (depending on the session), either Barry Harris or Ronnie Ball. Doug Watkins swings hard in the bass chair on both sessions. Mobley's compositional chops are way up here, and the interplay between the two is remarkable. They dovetail, go head to head, and complement each other as the hard bop wunderkinds they were, with the sheer joy of invention and competition everywhere present. This pairing of front-line players is, perhaps, the reason the folks at Jazz Factory chose to place the Byrd and Clarke material first on the disc, despite the fact that it was recorded later than the Roach sides. In any case, it's all very fine indeed, and brings to light some little-known early Mobley.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek