Jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb, the last surviving member of the Kind of Blue recording sessions, died Sunday at the age of 91.
NPR reports that the cause was lung cancer, according to Cobb’s wife, Eleana Tee Cobb. Earlier this year, the family had launched an online fundraiser to help with the costs of his illness.
Cobb’s drumming gave a swinging, floating feel to Miles Davis’s seminal, best-selling record Kind of Blue. Cobb was the rhythmic backbone of the group often known as Davis’s first great sextet.
Cobb also performed on several other Miles Davis albums, including Sketches of Spain and Someday My Prince Will Come. Other artists with whom Cobb had worked include John Coltrane, Nat and Cannonball Adderley, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Benny Golson and Wes Montgomery.
“Jimmy blew me away with his playing on the Miles Davis Kind of Blue recording, and I have been a fan ever since,” wrote jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette. “Jimmy left an amazing musical legacy which will never go away. May he be at peace.”
Cobb’s drumming style was always understated, which often had the effect of disguising the mastery at work. He brought a signature bounce and swing to the hard-bop sound, thanks to the light touch of his brush strokes and, especially, the floating rhythm of his washy cymbals.
“He was everything for me that jazz stands for,” wrote harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens. “I never wanted to explore the outer limits of this music, I just wanted to swing. That is holy ground for me, the inexplicable magic that swing is, and he was the king. Jimmy Cobb’s beat was unique, one of a kind.”
“Can’t tell you the hundreds of hours I spent shedding [sic] to his work with Miles,” wrote Questlove. “His brush work on Coltrane’s Naima is a master class on how to be present and not in the way at the same time.”
Jimmy Cobb was a 2009 recipient of an NEA Jazz Masters fellowship and the Don Redman Heritage Award.
Cobb had continued to record music of his own well into his later years; his last album was You’ll See in 2016.