50 years on, drummer still relishes "Kind of Blue"

Tue Jun 23, 2009 4:22pm EDT
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb has spent the last half century laying down rhythms for stars like Sarah Vaughn and Nancy Wilson, so one might expect him to tire of talking about the milestone record on which he played in 1959. But one would be wrong.

The record was Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue," widely considered one of the most influential albums in jazz, and one that is finding renewed interest in its 50th anniversary year.

As the sole survivor of the group that played on the album, Cobb, 80, is still talking about it -- and playing music from it -- as the leader of the So What Band, named for the landmark album's opening tune.

"I enjoyed it when we did it, and I never thought that it would come to be, 50 years later, what it has come to be," he told Reuters ahead of Calgary's jazz festival where the tribute band will play while on tour.

"Besides loving the music, and me being the only one you can talk to about it -- that's a lot of good reasons to talk about it, I think."

"Kind of Blue", which also featured saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, and bassist Paul Chambers, was seen as a turning point for jazz because its five songs are mostly improvisations with relatively few chord changes when compared to the rambunctious bebop style that preceded it.

On the record, made at two sessions at Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York in March and April of 1959, Davis and his group eschewed loud, fiery solos and up-tempo tunes, preferring a light, elegant sound with scant embellishment.

That's where Washington D.C.-born Cobb came in.   Continued...