Jimmy Cobb, Drummer on “Kind of Blue,” Dead at 91

His long career spanned generations of jazz musicians

Jimmy Cobb
Jimmy Cobb in 1993.
Krajazz/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / May 31, 2020 6:30 am

Some albums are so essential to musical history that they help establish the reputation of everyone who made them happen. Such is the case with Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, a record which helped to change the face of jazz forever. Jimmy Cobb, who died this week at the age of 91, was the drummer on that album — a landmark musical achievement on a landmark album.

At NPR, Natalie Weiner looked back over Cobb’s life and work. Weiner succinctly makes the case for why his work on Kind of Blue was so revelatory for so many people:

The perfect tension between Cobb’s signature driving cymbal beat and Paul Chambers’ relaxed walking bassline makes most people’s first jazz album one that you can — or can’t help but — move to.

As Pitchfork notes in their obituary, Cobb played on several of Davis’s classic albums, including Sketches of Spain. Until this week, he was the sole surviving member of Davis’s First Great Sextet.

His time as a young musician also involved working with other jazz luminaries like Dinah Washington, Quincy Jones and Cannonball Adderly. In later years, he worked to help younger generations of musicians find their own way into jazz, and acted as a mentor to a number of impressive figures in the jazz community.

“His musicality and subtlety were unmatched,” jazz pianist Brad Mehldau wrote in a tribute to Cobb on his website. “The joy he has given me as a listener for decades and playing with him a short while, is a treasure I hold in my heart.” Cobb’s work and influence reached far and wide in the world of music, both as musician and as mentor.

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