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Sun, 01.20.1929

Jimmy Cobb, Musician, and Teacher born

Jimmy Cobb

*Jimmy Cobb was born on this date in 1929.  He was a Black jazz drummer and teacher.   

Wilbur James Cobb was born in Washington, D.C.  Before his music career, he listened to jazz albums and stayed awake into the late hours of the night to listen to Symphony Sid performing in New York City.  

Cobb started his touring career in 1950 with the saxophonist Earl Bostic. He performed with vocalist Dinah Washington, pianist Wynton Kelly, saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, bassist Keter Betts, Frank Wess, Leo Parker, and Charlie Rouse. He also worked with Billie HolidayPearl Bailey, and Dizzy Gillespie in the mid-1950s.  

Cobb joined Miles Davis in 1957 as part of Davis’ First Great Sextet after an Adderley recommendation. Cobb's best-known recorded work is Davis' Kind of Blue (1959).  Cobb was the last surviving player from the sessions, a distinction he held for the last three decades of his life.  He also played on other Davis albums, including Sketches of Spain (1960), Someday My Prince Will Come (1961), Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall (1962), In Person Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk, Complete, and briefly on Porgy and Bess (1959) and Sorcerer.  

His subtle and understated demeanor drew the admiration of many, including Davis.  However, this also meant that he did not get the same level of recognition that his fellow drummers would.  Cobb had the propensity to avoid publicity and did not record his first set as a bandleader until 1983, with the release of So Nobody Else Can Hear. Cobb left the band when Davis brought in Tony Williams in 1963.

He formed a trio with Kelly and bassist Paul Chambers, both of whom were part of Davis' rhythm section. The group recorded with Kenny Burrell (guitar) and J. J. Johnson (trombone) before breaking up at the end of the decade. Cobb went on to join the Great Jazz Trio, together with Hank Jones on piano and Eddie Gómez on bass.  He also toured with Sarah Vaughan during the 1970s and taught at Stanford University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Berklee College of Music. He played in a tribute band called "4 Generations of Miles", together with Ron Carter (bass) and George Coleman (tenor saxophone).  Cobb was married to Eleana Steinberg Cobb. Together, they had two daughters (Serena and Jaime).   

During his career, Cobb worked with a virtual “who’s who” of jazz greats. Bill Evans, Clark Terry, Stan Getz, John ColtraneWes Montgomery, Art Pepper, Wayne Shorter, Benny Golson, Gil Evans, Kenny Dorham, Frank Strozier, Bobby Timmons, Booker Little, Johnny Griffin, Akiko Tsuruga, Bertha Hope, Hamiet Bluiett, Nat Adderley, Mark Murphy, Jon HendricksJoe Henderson, Fathead Newman, Geri Allen, Larry Willis, Walter Booker, Red Garland, Richie Cole, Ernie Royal, Jerome Richardson, Jimmy Cleveland, Philly Joe Jones, Sonny Stitt, Nancy Wilson, Ricky Ford, Richard Wyands, John Webber, and Peter Bernstein, among many others.  In June 2008, Cobb was the recipient of the Don Redman Heritage Award.  On October 17, 2008, Cobb was one of six artists to receive the 2009 National Endowment for the Arts NEA Jazz Masters award.  

Jimmy Cobb died on May 24, 2020, at his home in Manhattan. He was 91 and had been suffering from lung cancer.  At his death, he had been Miles Davis's First Great Sextet band's last surviving member for nearly thirty years.   

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