|Hank Mobley and Harold Mabern|
The third of these LPs, recorded in a single session on June 30, 1969, is entitled Workin' & Wailin' and finds Mabern both on piano and electric piano, accompanied by Virgil Jones on trumpet and flugelhorn, George Coleman on tenor, Buster Williams on bass, and Idris Muhammad (aka Leo Morris) on drums. Mabern contributed four original compositions to the date, among them two, "Strozier's Mode" and "Blues for Phineas," that allude to his friend Frank Strozier and to pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr., both of whom were important influences in his life. On the latter, Mabern switches to electric piano and proves to be a soulful interpreter of the blues on that instrument. The other two selections written by Mabern are "I Can't Understand What I See in You," a catchy, contemporary-sounding tune, and "Waltzing Westward," a lively melody in three-quarter time. All four Mabern originals are good examples of the pianist's aggressive, chord-filled approach and showcase his undeniable talent as a composer, also leaving plenty of room for Jones and Coleman to shine. The album opener, "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby," associated with The Temptations and Marvin Gaye, finds Mabern stepping into soul jazz territory, while the closing track, Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster's "A Time for Love," is the slowest selection on the LP and shows Mabern's most sensitive side. The album has been collated with another Prestige date by Mabern, Greasy Kid Stuff, for a CD reissue titled simply Wailin' , which inexplicably leaves out "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby." Until someone decides to release Mabern's complete Prestige recordings in digital format (which would be really desirable, by the way), this disc is well worth picking up, though. Mabern, who's an octogenarian at the time of this writing, has built up quite a following in Japan (he's even cut some albums for Japanese labels) and has fortunately kept recording steadily, his last session as a leader so far dating from 2014. A classy hard bopper who deserves wider recognition.