When Richie Beirach first met and played with Hank Mobley

Richie sent me his reflection of meeting Hank Mobley for the first time.

I was up at Don Sicklers loft one afternoon working on some stuff with Don, and Hank came. Don introduced me, telling Hank that I was a jazz pianist and was playing in a band with Dave Liebman. Hank smiled and said, “YEAH !! DAVE !! COOL !!”

All of a sudden, Don asked Hank if he would like to play a tune with me. I was shocked but happy. I hated the fact that Don put Hank on the spot like that but I went with it. Hank had his horn and he looked at me and I started playing Pfrancing/No Blues. Hank smiled and got right into it.

Hank sounded round and soft but penetrating, and his time feel. Shit !!! It was heaven for me!! I fell into a Wynton Kelly/Hank Jones thing. I couldn’t help it. I wanted to put Hank at ease, which I did. He played a long beautiful solo with the essence of behind the beat but never dragging or slowing down. He never once went chromatic so I didn’t push him. He finished his solo with a kind of blues shout thing that was perfect.

I started my solo but unconsciously left the Wynton vibe and was now inside my own shit. It went well. Hank had his head down swaying with the time, then I started to really move it around harmonically. Hank had his eyes closed listening to me but he was smiling when I took it out, but I never let go of the form or the time.

I ended with a similar shout chorus that Hank played but I reharmonized it with polychords. We hit the head again twice and out. Hank immediately came around the piano and we gave each other a big hug!

It was a wonderful experience for me and I hope for him as well. He seemed pretty happy and I said, “I was thinking of Wynton when I was playing with you, Hank.” He replied wistfully, “I think of Wynton every day.

I will carry that memory forever.

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