Take Five With Peter Cobb

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Peter Cobb:

Saxophonist Peter Cobb hails from Boston, and grew up studying with the likes of Joe Viola and Jerry Bergonzi, and later went to Berklee on a saxophone scholarship. After taking a brief detour to attend UPenn Law School and practicing as an attorney in Philadelphia for a few years, Peter moved to New York City to return to a full-time career as a jazz musician, performer, teacher and writer.



Teachers and/or influences?

My mother (a great pianist), John Payne Guerin, Jerry Bergonzi, Joe Viola, Bob Sinicrope, Antonio Hart, Steve Giordano, Kenny Werner, Ralph Lalama, Jean-Michel Pilc, Brian Lynch, Scott Sherwood.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

My grandfather gave me a copy of Scott Hamilton's Tenorshoes on my 10th birthday...so February 3, 1986.

Your sound and approach to music:

I've always been drawn to melodies. Improvisation for me is just an attempt to put another beautiful melody over an existing one. How one defines "beauty" is subjective, however...my influences are pretty rooted in traditional swing and bebop, and as I've gotten older I find myself drawn to more elaborate compositions as well. Many of the artists on the ECM label appeal to me greatly. And I can't ever get enough Charlie Parker :-)

Your teaching approach:

I'm constantly reminding myself of how I learn— how there are certain concepts that I have trouble absorbing. So I believe it's important to bear in mind that my students may have the same difficulties. For me, working with an individual is as much about learning how he/she learns as it is about conveying the material. And I'm a stickler for the fundamentals, whether it's technical proficiency or truly learning a song so that it becomes unconscious. You need to build from a solid base.

Your dream band:

I've been really fortunate to work with some marvelous musicians doing original music in Philadelphia (Steve Giordano). I don't think there is an "ideal band" as there are so many great musicians with so much to express, how could you know before you heard them? :-) I really enjoy playing with other good horn players...I'd love to play with Lee Konitz!

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

Playing my first date as a leader in 1994 at the "1359" club in Cambridge, Mass. It was in the backroom of a basement VFW post...we were competing with pool, darts and the Red Sox game...

Favorite venue:

The Blue Note in New York...so much history there and I felt really honored to be on that stage.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

"Villino Anna" from Timeline, with Steve Giordano, in 2006. It was the greatest ensemble piece I've ever been privileged to be a part of...

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Something Else with Julian "Cannonball" Adderley and Miles Davis.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

I like to think that there is an honesty to my playing. I play what I hear, and I try to create a beautiful melody every time I solo...that's what leaves me the most fulfilled when I'm done.

Did you know...

I can recite from memory most of the comedy sketch "The 2000 Year Old Man" by Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner...my father was a big fan.

Desert Island picks:

Sonny Rollins, What's New (RCA);

Bill Evans, Everybody Digs Bill Evans (Riverside);

Charlie Parker, Charlie Parker With Strings (Mercury);

Wayne Shorter, JuJu (Blue Note).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

I think there are many musicians taking the music in amazing directions...as well as many dedicated to preserving the tradition. Sometimes it seems like people feel like you can't do both, and I disagree with that. I feel like most worthwhile extensions are rooted in the essence of the music, and that most great modern players understand and feel the tradition no matter how experimental their contributions may seem.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

We need to get our act together. The community has become too insular, and at times it feels like new jazz fans/players are treated as resources— there to pay for lessons, buy albums and attend shows. Of course that is true, but they should also be viewed as potential Coltranes and Norman Granzs and nurtured accordingly. This music is such a magical thing, but it is not out in public that much. We need more people to understand and enjoy it, and those who show an interest should be treated with tremendous respect and gratitude.

What is in the near future?

The Psalm Salon on September 18, 2009 in Philadelphia, with composer/guitarist Steve Giordano debuting some new quintet compositions. It should be an evening of delicate and intricate music.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Lawyer :-)


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