All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Interviews

Bill Cosby: If You Could Hear It, You'd Smile

By Published: June 2, 2010

AAJ: I just watched the YouTube video of you on the Dick Cavett Show some years ago where you tell a story of sitting in with Sonny Stitt

Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
1924 - 1982
saxophone
. It was one of the funniest things ever!

BC: Jack Benny was the other guest. He fell off the chair, and after I did my monologue, he said, "I have no idea of anything you said, but it was funny as hell!"

AAJ: Was that story about you and Stitt true? Did it really happen?

BC: Yeah. The Blue Note used to have these matinees. Mickey Roker will tell you about those jam sessions at 4 o'clock. And if you got up enough nerve, you could go up and tap somebody, indicating you wanted to play.

AAJ: So it actually happened that you played drums behind Sonny Stitt, and when Max Roach

Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
realized you were in physical pain from trying to keep up, he tapped you on the shoulder and took your place. That's incredible! [laughter] So, who are some of your favorite jazz musicians and recordings?





Seriously into Jazz

BC: I'm the kind of listener who for two weeks in a row, I'll love Bud Powell

Bud Powell
Bud Powell
1924 - 1966
piano
. Then another time, I'll get into Erroll Garner
Erroll Garner
Erroll Garner
1921 - 1977
piano
. Then again, I'll get into the CD, Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
b.1930
piano
in Pittsburgh
and just keep listenin' to that. And then I'll go in, and for some reason, pick up Sun Ra
Sun Ra
Sun Ra
1914 - 1993
keyboard
and his Arkestra. Then I'll do nothing but Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, just with the Philadelphia musicians who played with him.

AAJ: Reggie Workman

Reggie Workman
Reggie Workman
b.1937
bass
on bass.

BC: More often, it was Jymie Merritt

Jymie Merritt
Jymie Merritt
b.1926
bass
.

AAJ: And Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
on trumpet.

BC: And Benny Golson

Benny Golson
Benny Golson
b.1929
sax, tenor
. Bobby Timmons
Bobby Timmons
Bobby Timmons
1935 - 1974
piano
.

AAJ: Timmons being the Philly pianist and composer of "Moanin.'" Sounds like you're a pretty serious devotee.

BC: Then I might listen to Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
. It just comes, and I'll get interested. I may do nothing but Mingus for a while. And then turn around and listen to Richard "Groove" Holmes
Richard
Richard "Groove" Holmes
1931 - 1991
organ, Hammond B3
[the jazz "soul" organist—eds.] doing "Misty." Then I'll turn on the jazz station of Sirius Radio, and although the sound isn't that good, you've got all these great cuts. A couple of days ago, around four in the morning, they played an organist, but I couldn't hear who it was, and I was just so frustrated. But there was a beat and a rhythm to it. It was just the blues, but when the back beat is something on the order of James Brown's drummer, the solos get lost, because the rhythm is so complex but funky, and it was a monster that forced you to go to the rhythm section. So the soloists got lost, like the paper napkin with the hors d'oevres.



And then, too, among the guitarists, Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery
Wes Montgomery
1925 - 1968
guitar
is fantastic. He's always good to let you know what the art form is all about. It's the same still life that everybody is painting, but in comes Wes Montgomery, and it's right there! I love the music. But I never compare. I never say that Monk is better than Horace Parlan
Horace Parlan
Horace Parlan
b.1931
piano
, for example. That's not the way I listen. I'll get just as excited about Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
1931 - 1971
piano
playin' with Miles. I amaze people because there was a time when you could put a record on, and like Leonard Feather used to do the Downbeat thing, the music during the '50's, and I could always tell you who the musician was. So sometimes I'll get in the car, and our driver keeps his 88.3FM or the Columbia University station on, which is fantastic, and I'll just open the door and get in, and I'll say, "That's Hank Mobley
Hank Mobley
Hank Mobley
1930 - 1986
sax, tenor
." Then the announcer will say, "That was Hank Mobley...." And the driver just shakes his head! He loves jazz too, but he's amazed that I know the players that well.

AAJ: Your knowledge and love of jazz is obvious just from the musicians you've mentioned.

Anticipating the Upcoming Playboy Jazz Festival

BC: When I do the Playboy Jazz Festival, in addition to being the emcee, I'll be playing with the group, "Cos of Good Music." We'll be performing on Sunday, June 13th. There are two guys who join me every year. They are Dwayne Burno

Dwayne Burno
Dwayne Burno
1970 - 2013
bass
on bass and Leon "Ndugu" Chancler on drums. They know exactly what I want, and that will hold things together. Because all the other musicians, I've not worked with before. OK, so the rehearsal will be 10am that Sunday, and only Dwayne, Ndugu, and I will know what we're going to do. We'll rehearse for two hours, and then play at 3:40 in the afternoon. We'll have only one rehearsal.

AAJ: Do you have an idea of what tunes you're going to do?

BC: I sure do, and so will they, because I'm going to mail them my selections along with CDs whose versions I like. For instance, we're going to do Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
's "The Chess Player," which he did when he was with Art Blakey. I want the attack to be the same as when the Messengers did it, because it's very exciting, and that's our opening song. It's to get the people in a festive mood. The second song is going to be John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
's "Ole." The message I'll give to the musicians will be that I want them to enter their solos in the same pitch and intensity that John enters in his first solo on "Ole" because I think it is absolutely perfect and will keep the audience attentive. See, it's an open-air festival, there's food, there's wine, and people will be just arriving because there's sets from 2 to 10pm. So you really want to spark their interest, capture the spirit, and give it to the people so that they feel alive. And when John played his solo on "Ole," I want that pitch and intensity, and then you play whatever you wanna play. It's different if you're at home listening alone. At a place like the Hollywood Bowl, there are lots of distractions, and I want the audience's spirit to be lifted and for them to realize that they're in an energy area.


comments powered by Disqus