It’s hard to know where to begin with this week’s feature artist. He is without a doubt one of the most legendary drummers alive today, having worked with John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley, to name only a few.
Cobb was born in Washington, DC on January 20, 1929 and today at age 85 he is still going strong. He was primarily self-taught, although Feather & Gitler, writing in The Biographical Encyclopedia Of Jazz, do say he studied briefly with Jack Dennett. In Cobb’s biography on the PBS web site for Ken Burns’ series “Jazz,” Dennett is referred to as a percussionist with the National Symphony Orchestra.
The list of people Cobb has performed with is longer than I have room for here, but some of them are: Earl Bostic, Clark Terry, Billy Holiday, Wes Montgomery, Frank Wess, Sonny Stitt, Nat Adderley, Stan Getz, David “Fathead” Newman, Hank Jones, Pearl Bailey, and Cedar Walton.
As a side note, I went to Drum Magazine‘s web site and checked out their list of the 50 best drummers ever. The list includes at least a dozen jazz drummers (4 of the top 5 are or were jazz men), including some like Steve Gadd, who was just as comfortable playing jazz with Michel Petrucciani as he is playing huge sold-out arenas backing Eric Clapton. But I was amazed to see that Cobb’s name was absent. All such lists are very subjective, and the results obviously reflect the judges personal biases, but this seems to be a pretty glaring omission.
To belabor the obvious, Cobb is probably best-known for being the last surviving member of the group that helped Miles Davis create what is generally accepted as the best-selling jazz album ever, “Kind Of Blue.”*
Although Cobb has appeared on hundreds if not thousands of albums backing other people, it was only about twenty years ago that he began recording under his own name. Consequently, his discography is considerably shorter than one would expect.
The album I want to tell you about this week is the 2003 release from his group Jimmy Cobb’s Mob entitled “Cobb’s Groove.”
The personnel list for this one is short and sweet:
Jimmy Cobb, drums
Peter Bernstein, guitar
Eric Alexander, tenor sax
Richard Wyands, piano
John Webber, bass
“Cobb’s Groove” consists of nine songs, including three from guitarist Peter Bernstein and one each from piano maestro Wyands and Cobb himself.
The album opens with Cobb’s only contribution, the title track “Cobb’s Groove.” Everyone jumps right in, and one by one each gets a nice solo. “Cobb’s Groove” is a wonderful, lively song that does an excellent job of setting the pace for the remaining tracks.
Ron Wynn, writing in his bio of Cobb on the allmusic.com web site, mentions that Cobb is not particularly known for long, rambling drum solos. We can see the truth of that statement here. Cobb does take a brief solo with about a minute and a half to go in the song, but he cuts it short long before it reaches the point of being tedious. From what I recall, that is pretty much his only solo on the album.
Up next is “I Miss You, My Love” from Steve Statten. This one begins a little quieter than “Cobb’s Groove,” but it definitely has a nice groove to it. Alexander and Cobb dominate the piece, but Wyands and Bernstein are no slouches and each has ample opportunity to demonstrate that.
“I Miss You My Love.”
Skipping ahead, the next song I want to discuss is one of Bernstein’s, the aptly-named “Jet Stream.” Like the title track, “Jet Stream” hits the ground running from the very start. Bernstein is a standout on this one, not surprising I suppose considering he wrote it. J Everyone gets a shot in the limelight and each acquits himself well, supported by the driving rhythm laid down by Cobb and Webber.
Once again I’m going to jump ahead, this time to “Minor Changes.” This is another child of Bernstein’s fertile mind, and while it has a bit less energy than some of the others, the guys imbue it with a nice groove that moves it along. Webber gives us a nicely-done solo about five minutes in.
The last song I want to mention is (surprise, surprise) the one remaining Bernstein original, “Bobblehead.” It is tempting to ignore a song with what seems to be a throwaway title, but if you do that, the loss will be yours. “Bobblehead” is a fine bit of bop, albeit with a somewhat slower tempo than the others. Don’t let the gentler pace fool you though, because this one has a hot groove that I love. I think you will too. Alexander gets his best solo of the album on this one, and the ending alone is worth the price of admission.
Here are the guys doing “Bobblehead.”
If you would like to learn more about Jimmy Cobb and his music, visit his web site.
You can listen to a 14 minute interview with Cobb here:
Marc Myers has published an extensive interview with Cobb on his “Jazz Wax” web site:
Part 1: http://www.jazzwax.com/2009/01/interview-jimmy.html
Part 2: http://www.jazzwax.com/2009/01/interview-jim-1.html
Part 3: http://www.jazzwax.com/2009/01/interview-jim-2.html
Part 4: http://www.jazzwax.com/2009/01/interview-jim-3.html
There are nice bios of Cobb available on Drummerworld and allmusic.com.
For more information about Miles Davis’ opus “Kind Of Blue,” you can go here and here.
Thanks for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
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