Reachin’ Out To Rob

ROB AGERBEEK/HANK MOBLEY – Just recently, the Dutch Jazz Archive released To One So Sweet Stay That Way: Hank Mobley In Holland. (See review here.) A great document that fills the musical gaps of Mobley’s ten-day stay in The Netherlands in 1967. A big part of the CD is dedicated to Mobley’s gig at Rotterdam’s club B14 with the Rob Agerbeek Trio. More than enough reason to get in touch with veteran hard bop, boogie-woogie and swing pianist Rob Agerbeek and ask about his recollections with the revered tenor saxophonist.

FM: How did that gig came about?
RA: I got a call from a small-time impresario, Wim Johan Kuijper, who asked me: ‘Do you want to play with Hank Mobley? ‘ I said, ‘that’s a silly question! Of course!’

FM: It must’ve been quite something to meet Hank Mobley before the show.
RA: I expected a big, impressive cat, you know. But he was just a young guy. It was a beautiful day, late Winter, early Spring. I was there with my wife. He strolled into the place, threw his horn case into the corner. He asked me, ‘where you from?’ I said: ‘The Hague.’ ‘No’, he said, ‘I mean, where you from?’ Then I got it. I explained that I was born in Dutch Indonesia. ‘Aha,’ said Hank, ‘that’s the place with the king who plays clarinet.’ Almost. ‘No,’ I said, ‘that’s Thailand.’

I was thinking, Jesus Christ, I better set my best foot forward on stage! But it turned out pretty well.

FM: It was a one-off trio, right?
RA: Yes. I hadn’t played with bass player Hans van Rossem. But I was familiar with drummer Cees See.

FM: Was the setlist discussed or did Mobley counted off the tunes on the spot?
RA: Basically, he called a tune and asked if that was ok. Very nice.

FM: The sound quality, quite logically, isn’t fantastic. But you can hear you’re a bed of roses for him, despite the fact that he sounds a bit fatigued as well. You were already a very accomplished player and, naturally, familiar with standards like Autumn Leaves and Like Someone In Love. Mobley’s Three-Way Split was a lesser-known affair. Oddly enough, it’s the swinginest tune!
RA: I knew that tune from the album with Andrew Hill on piano. (No Room For Squares, FM) Yes, Hank liked my playing, afterwards he invited me for a gig to Paris. Sometime later we played at the American School in Paris with Art Taylor, trumpeter Dizzy Reece and bass player Jimmy Woode. Mobley had a session in Paris and wanted me in on it. But Francis Wolff had already booked another pianist, Vince Benedetti. Mobley was rather peeved about being overruled. It turned out to be the album The Flip.

FM: At least now your cooperation with Mobley in Holland is preserved for posterity.
RA: O yeah, it’s a wonderful job by the Dutch Jazz Archive. I’m very honored. I also really like those tunes with the Hobby Orkest.

FM: Mobley in a big band setting, really surprising. The context suits Mobley very well, he’s in great form. It would’ve been really nice if Mobley would’ve done a big band album in his lifetime.
RA: Yes, absolutely. Well, early in his career Mobley did play in Dizzy Gillespie’s band, of course.

Find To One So Sweet Stay That Way: Hank Mobley In Holland here.

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