Marsalis Music Honors Jimmy Cobb
You can count on one hand the total number of albums that the great drummer has made as a leader. Acknowledging that oversight, Branford Marsalis has crafted here a fitting showcase for the man who replaced Philly Joe Jones in the Miles Davis sextet (1958–1963), fueled the historic Kind of Blue sessions with his tasty, unerring sense of swing and went on to enjoy an association with the Wynton Kelly trio (1963–1968) alongside bassist Paul Chambers.
At age 77, Cobb is still playing wonderfully well, whether it’s creating a delicate “Flamenco Sketches”-like ambiance with his masterful brushstroke on the gorgeous ballad “Eleanor” (dedicated to his late sister), swinging joyously on Rodgers and Hart’s “Johnny One Note” or engaging in spirited exchanges with the band on his own buoyant “Composition 101.” On a jaunty Wynton Kelly tribute, “W.K.,” Cobb takes his time building an extended solo, working like an orator pacing himself before reaching a speech’s dramatic conclusion. The quintessentially supportive drummer exhibits more soloistic flair on his funky Horace Silver-ish closer, “Tune 341.”
Pianist Ellis Marsalis provides seasoned, soulful accompaniment throughout, and he adds some noteworthy solos of his own, particularly on the restful, almost spiritual “Eleanor” (reminiscent of John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord”), an easy-swinging treatment of Henry Mancini’s “Mr. Lucky” and a hip waltz-time rendition of John Williams’ “Can You Read My Mind” (from the movie Superman). The patriarch of the Marsalis clan also contributes the composition “Tell Me,” a tricky tune full of twisted, odd intervals.
This disc honoring Cobb also introduces two outstanding sidemen in the young British bassist Orlando Le Fleming, a deep-toned walker with an impeccable sense of time, and alto sax burner Andrew Speight, an established jazz educator whose pungent tone, blistering facility and immense soul place him solidly in the Cannonball Adderley camp.