Jimmy Cobb: Tough Guys & Stickadiboom
Steve Haines Quintet with Jimmy Cobb
Jimmy Cobb, the latest member of the jazz octogenarian drummers club (Charli Persip joins later this year), is the common thread on these two albums. A veteran who has played with everyone from the Adderley Brothers to Sarah Vaughan, Cobb is the lone surviving musician from the best-selling jazz album of all time, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. At once one of the least flamboyant yet rhythmically assertive (and steady) drummers who worked with Davis during his pre-fusion days, Cobb still maintains a forward-leaning beat, impeccable time and driving support today.
Both of these albums come with some academic pedigree. The Generations Band is a program of the International Center for the Arts at San Francisco State University, directed by faculty member and alto saxophonist Andrew Speight. Bassist Steve Haines is the director of the Miles Davis Program in Jazz Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the members of his quintet are all academics as well as musicians (Cobb is a special guest, appearing on six of the eight tracks). So in many ways the music on these albums is informed and/or influenced by jazz studies programs.
Tough Guys takes a jazz repertoire approach, mixing it up with two pieces from the band's pianist, the late Ronnie Mathews, and one from Cobb. Most notable is the inclusion of two Kind of Blue tunes, "So What" and "Freddie the Freeloader". They both stay close to the original template, thanks to the solid rhythmic foundation of Cobb and bassist Ray Drummond, with trumpeter Marcus Belgrave (flugelhorn on "So What"), tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and Speight all referencing aspects of Davis, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley respectively in their solos. Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-A-Ning" is also given a spirited workout reminiscent of Davis' Kind of Blue-era bands. Mathews' "Jean Marie" features the open, rolling 3/4 on 4/4 rhythm of the John Coltrane Quartet, Cobb channeling an Elvin Jones feel, while the drummer's own "W.K.," with its stop-times, odd intervals and quirky asymmetric melody, is a memorable hard bop line. An up-tempo "Just One of Those Things" gives both saxophonists room to stretch out and shine.
Another catchy Cobb hard bop tune, the soulfully funky "Composition 101," concludes Stickadiboom, but the other seven pieces are all by Haines and they exhibit a variety and memorability suggesting that he is yet another exceptional bassist leader-composer following in a long and rich jazz tradition. And Cobb gets to display his versatility, from the boogaloo stomp of the title track and quasi-tango of "Rendezvous" to the subtle brushes of the dirge-like "Patience" and snappy brush/sticks stroll of "Prospect Park". Hardly household names, the members of Haines' quintet deserve wider recognition, especially the pellucid trumpet of Rob Smith, who doubles impressively on soprano sax, the robust tenor sax of David Lown and Chip Crawford's exploratory piano.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: Rhythm-A-Ning; Jean Marie; So What; O Grande Amour; Song for Leslie; W.K.; Just One Of Those Things; Freddie The Freeloader.
Personnel: Jimmy Cobb: drums; Ray Drummond: bass; Ronnie Mathews: piano; Eric Alexander: sax; Marcus Belgrave: trumpet; Andrew Speight: sax.
Tracks: The Freightrain; Stickadiboom; Rendezvous; Sutak 9-1-1; Patience; Prospect Park; Re:Frayne; Composition 101.
Personnel: Rob Smith: trumpet, soprano sax; David Lown: tenor sax; Chip Crawford: piano; Steve Haines: bass; Thomas Taylor: drums (1, 7); Jimmy Cobb: drums (2-6, 8).