Legendary jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb died on Sunday, May 24 at the age of 91. Cobb’s wife, Eleana Tee Cobb, told NPR that he died from lung cancer at his home in Manhattan. Cobb was a musician whose drumming subtly influenced and drove many of jazz’s top albums. He is perhaps best known for his drumming on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album, released in 1959.
Below is a recent interview between Cobb and The Sessions Panel channel:
Many have referred to Cobb as the last surviving member of Miles Davis’ First Great Sextet. He received the 2009 NEA Jazz Masters award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Cobb is survived by his wife and his two daughters, Serena and Jaime.
Cobb Became a Drummer From a Very Young Age & Played on Many Notable Recordings Throughout His Life
Cobb was an acclaimed drummer who was primarily self-taught. He grew up in Washington, D.C. and bought his first drum kit as a teenager. In an interview he said that he just assumed it would be something he’d like to do and when he got better at it, he’d do it for the rest of his life. Before he even turned 20, he’d played with Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker, eventually making it on Symphony Sid’s traveling show.
He left the city in 1950 when he joined Earl Bostic, then played for years with Dinah Washington, Cannonball Adderley and Dizzy Gillespie, to name just a few. Cobb is featured on some of Washington’s best recordings. He started playing with Miles Davis in 1957, eventually becoming part of a legendary rhythm section that had Wynton Kelly on piano and Paul Chambers on bass. He played with Davis over the next few years, appearing on some of his most acclaimed records, including Kind of Blue, which was recorded just after Cobb’s 30th birthday.
Cobb left Davis’ band in 1963 to work as a trio with Chambers and Kelly, which itself disbanded in the late 1960s. He then worked with singer Sarah Vaughn for nine years before freelancing with many different artists. He didn’t record his own album as a bandleader until the 1980s. He spent the next decades of his life mentoring new drummers and celebrating jazz music through performances with the Jimmy Cobb “So What” band.
Cobb Was Born in 1929 in Washington, D.C. & Later Lived in New York City With His Wife & Two Daughters
He was born James Wilbur Cobb on January 20, 1929. He married Eleana Steinberg Tee Cobb and together they had two daughters, Serena and Jaime. Eleana herself was an accomplished musician, songwriter, director and poet, and was married to keyboardist Richard Tee. After Tee’s death in 1993, Eleana married Cobb.
His daughter Serena is also a musician and singer-songwriter. In December 2019, she posted on Instagram: “I’m so grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend on the road with my dad lately. Life is so precious. He’s literally my hero. I promised to never take anyone for granted again. Enjoy every moment and tell people you love them while you can.”