You can understand why musicians cover entire albums when the subject is an epic like Kind of Blue or A Love Supreme. It’s a little harder to see what would prompt someone to do a track-by-track remake of saxophonist Hank Mobley’s Soul Station. It may be Mobley’s best record, but it doesn’t crack the 200 recommended recordings in either Ben Ratliff’s book of essential LPs or The Rough Guide to Jazz, and Mobley merits barely a passing mention in Ted Gioia’s landmark book The History of Jazz. Israeli saxophonist Eli Degibri, however, says Soul Station is his touchstone and lifelong inspiration. His challenge in covering the whole thing is to find something new to say through it.
Degibri’s timbre is slighter and more pointed than Mobley’s round, warm tone, but his performance is no less expressive. His blowing is often reserved, to the point where one sometimes strains to hear him cut through the rhythm section. He takes several tunes at a slightly faster tempo than Mobley did, though one selection—“If I Should Lose You,” the best tune here—is slowed to a lush ballad. He switches to soprano sax a couple of times, whereas Mobley stuck to tenor. It would be hard to top Mobley’s rhythm section of pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Art Blakey, but Mobley’s group steps up. Pianist Tom Oren and bassist Tamir Shmerling both turn in nifty solos on the title tune, and drummer Eviatar Slivnik throws in extra fills on “Remember” rather than trying to imitate the legend who preceded him. Degibri adds an original composition, a nice piece called “Dear Hank” that sounds like it might be derived from “Blues in the Night.” Degibri’s is a good album, but aside from that gorgeously languid cover of “If I Should Lose You,” he hasn’t done enough to make Soul Station his own.