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Billy Higgins

This 1967 date by tenor saxophone great Hank Mobley was a high watermark for the Blue Note label during that exceptional year. Mobley wrote all six tunes here, and they offer the breadth and depth of his mature compositional method. All but one of his collaborators on this project were label veterans -- Jackie McLean, Blue Mitchell, Billy Higgins, and Bob Cranshaw. The lone exception was pianist John Hicks, and the recording session benefits greatly from his contribution. Hicks is a very lyrical player, even when he gets tough and funky. He is right at home with the hard bop blues on the title cut, which opens the set and provides a wonderfully swinging bottom for the soloists to trade fours and burrow through. His chromatic prowess and subtlety are very evident on the moving ballad "No More Goodbyes," where his gently shaded harmonies and ostinatos offer Mobley a beautiful backdrop to solo from. Mobley's sense of rhythmic invention is showcased on the breezy yet finger-popping "Bossa De Luxe," and the three horns go deep into the groove -- using Higgins and Hicks as counterweights in the funky, greasy "Flirty Gerty" that closes the set. In all, this date is solid, ranking with the very best of Mobley's offerings for Blue Note. ~ Thom Jurek