Emmet Cohen (p.) featuring Jimmy Cobb (dr.) – Masters Legacy Vol. 1 – CellarLive

Emmet Cohen (p.) featuring Jimmy Cobb (dr.) – Masters Legacy Series Vol. 1 – CellarLive CL 031616, 55:06 ****:

A stellar start to a promising series.

(Emmet Cohen – piano; Jimmy Cobb – drums; Yasushi Nakamura – acoustic bass; Godwin Louis – alto saxophone tracks 5 & 10 )

Jimmy Cobb is the epitome of a hard-bop drummer, as he symbolizes that particular genre with his canny balance of tastefulness and forcefulness. While at eighty-eight, he is not the oldest living drummer of that style. (Roy Haynes retains that honor at ninety), he is the only surviving member of the Miles Davis band that recorded the seminal album Kind Of Blue in 1959. Thanks to Canadian jazz impresario and tenor saxophonist Cory Weeds, Cobb’s prominence  is being kept alive with this concert release under the rubric of a Masters Legacy Series which was recorded in New York City on March 16, 2016.

Emmet Cohen is a prodigious young pianist with a stellar musical education, who in addition to working with his own trio, conceived the idea of the Masters Legacy Series as a way to honor those jazz greats who paved the way for young musicians such as himself. Furthermore, he is also part of bassist Christian McBride’s “Special Trio” and is touring with him over the coming months. The compositions chosen for this session are associated with Cobb’s playing days with a number of jazz greats such as Miles Davis,  Cannonball Adderley, Wynton Kelly and Joe Henderson, as well as David Fathead Newman.

Cobb, however, did not start his recording career in the jazz field, but in 1951 with the R&B alto saxophonist Earl Bostic on his hit “Flamingo”. There is nothing R&B in the interpretation offered here, just a  dead-on approach that gives Cohen a chance for expressiveness as he runs through the melody. A short, but tasty exchange, between Cobb and Cohen is carefully crafted.

Ferde Grofé wrote The Grand Canyon Suite between 1929 and 1931 as a five-movement orchestral composition of which “On The Trail” was the third movement. Cobb’s attachment to the number comes from his time with Wynton Kelly and Joe Henderson. Here pianist Cohen blends the colouration and quality of the canyon ride to develop the theme. Cobb is a drummer of expertise who works his drum kit to full spirited effect during his solo break.

Cobb’s time with Miles Davis is exemplified by Dizzy Gillespie’s “Two Bass Hit” and Vincent Young’s “When I Fall In Love”. The former is a spirited rendition of the tune taken an up tempo pace, with Cohen showing crisp inquisitiveness with this hard-bop classic. Cobb’s drumming provides the energetic contrasts to the main theme. The latter number is offered in a ballad tempo with Cobb’s whispering brush work especially evocative.

Alto saxophonist Godwin Louis was born in Harlem, NYC and grew up in Bridgeport Conn. and Port au Prince Haiti. In 2011, he graduated from the Thelonious Monk Institute for Jazz Performance Class and is building a solid reputation on his instrument. He is featured here on two tunes: “Folk Song” and “Hard Times”.  In both numbers, he shows himself to be an inventive player with a soulful and authoritative style. In this quartet format, the band demonstrates a sure-footed and lively command of the material.  A tip of the hat to Cory Weeds for the conviction to mount this series.

TrackList: On The Trail; Tin Tin Deo; Two Bass Hit; When I Fall In Love; Folk Song; Interlude; Flamingo; If This Isn’t Love; Mr. Robinson; Hard Times; Concerto For Cobb

—Pierre Giroux

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