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Cobi Narita's 80th Birthday

By Published: March 5, 2006
Narita's husband Paul Ash throws her a birthday party every year and covers all expenses. Proceeds from the door benefit Cobi's Place. "All [Cobi's parties] have been very special to me because of the presentation, said Heath. "She has food there and all the people that I like. She knows all the right people to have.

An innate sense of organization and an eye for quality, combined with boundless energy, appear to be the cornerstone of Narita's' success. "I'm a little overworked, she said. "But I work well under pressure. I think you have to decide what your priorities are and do them one at a time. I used to have a sheet with 50 things on it. I have a sheet with 10 things on it now and try to get 3 done. I do something because it's fun to do and I like the people I'm involved with. It seems like I was always doing practically the same things that I'm doing now.

"I've never known Cobi to owe any musician, said Heath. "She always makes sure people are paid. Paying her musicians is extremely important to Narita and she is grateful for the times Ash has been there to help when she needed it. "My husband is my staunchest supporter; I never worry about anything because if I make a mistake he backs me, takes care of it for me.

33 years ago at a Collective Black Artists gig in St. Albans, saxophonist Gene Jefferson introduced Narita to his friend Paul Ash. "We were both chewing Dentyne, she recalled. "From that minute he was my boyfriend. 17 years later they married and Narita, after 25-years in her beloved city, moved to Oyster Bay. Depressed at first, she soon learned to drive again and heads to the city at least once a week to see her friends play or for events at her place. She takes care of publicity, refreshments and the technical details for all the performances at her club.

"A performer looks forward to meeting somebody who knows how to produce their work and that's Cobi, said vocalist Abbey Lincoln. "She's been doing this all those years. She's a blessing to us all.

As the second of five siblings (she visits her older brother, who has Parkinson's, in California every other month), Narita became the 'little mother' of the family. And with seven children of her own, 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren she continues to be a mother to all who surround her.

"Cobi is one of the most giving persons that I have ever, ever in my life known, said vocalist Mabel Lee. "She gives to everybody. She loves people... She is an angel to everybody.

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