Jimmy Cobb – The Original Mob – Smoke Sessions Records SSR-1407, 63:42 [6/10/14] ****:
(Brad Mehldau- piano; Peter Bernstein – guitar; John Webber – bass; Jimmy Cobb – drums)
As the last surviving band member of what was arguably the greatest jazz album ever, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, drummer Jimmy Cobb’s name would carry a lot of weight, even if he was retired and resting on his laurels as a definitive drummer for over seven decades. But like Roy Haynes, Jack DeJohnette, and Louis Hayes, Cobb is still going strong, and a commanding presence on the bandstand. His original “mob” formed over twenty years ago when he was teaching at The New School, included Brad Mehldau, Peter Bernstein, and John Webber. They played together often back then. Veteran pianist, Richard Wyands took Mehldau’s place when Brad’s career skyrocketed.
Many years later the original quartet is playing together again, and what venue better than New York’s intimate Smoke jazz club to record as a group under Jimmy’s leadership. With a song list equally mixed between standards and band member’s compositions, the quartet remains vibrant, and well seasoned like a gumbo that has been bubbling throughout the day
Cobb is a master with sticks and brushes, low-key but fully in control, setting tempo and rhythm. Mehldau is right in the groove as is Webber, who is a first call bassist all the way, even in the Big Apple. But it is Peter Bernstein is the glue that holds the group together. Cobb compares him to Grant Green, who both as a leader and sideman set the standard for countless Blue Note releases. Bernstein is so tasteful, understated yet with impeccable taste and touch. You can hear Wes Montgomery as well in Peter’s finger work. On “Old Devil Moon” and “Sunday in New York” to name a few, Peter is clearly center stage. Only on Mehldau’s “Unrequited” does he sit out. On that tune, Cobb’s sticks’ underlying percussive beat is in full synch with Brad’s ruminations.
Cobb’s “Composition 101” is a blues setup to feature Bernstein’s fleet lines, while Jimmy’s “Remembering U” is a sumptuous ballad obviously written for someone dear to Cobb. Bernstein’s “Minor Blues” already has the feel of a future standard, possibly waiting for some lyrics to cement its entry into the standard songbook of others.
The Original Mob is back on the street. It would nice if their domain would exceed the confines of The Big Apple. Till then, be satisfied with their Feb. 3, 2014 visit to Smoke.
Tracklist: Old Devil Moon, Amsterdam After Dark, Sunday in New York, Stranger in Paradise, Unrequited, Composition 101, Remembering U, Nobody Else but Me, Minor Blues, Lickety Split
Louis Hayes – Return of the Jazz Communicators – Smoke Sessions Records SSR-1408, 63:42 [5/13/14] ****½:
(Abraham Burton- tenor sax; Steve Nelson- vibraphone; David Bryant- piano; Dezron Douglas – bass; Louis Hayes – drums)
Although each of the recent Smoke Sessions Records issues of live sessions at the New York City club have been top notch, I’d have to say that my favorite so far has been the Louis Hayes CD. That surprised me in that I especially dig the issues with a strong horn front line. Hayes’ Nov. 16, 2013 date has tenorist Abraham Burton as the sole front line horn, and he clearly delivers. Louis has been noted in the past for backing heavyweights like Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, among others. They were all iconic names and could take command at a moments notice.
Here on this Smoke Session it is pre-eminent vibist, Steve Nelson, who takes the grouping outside of the typical quintet format. Burton is right there, but it is Nelson who steals the show, both as a foil for Abraham, but also a front line leader – of course spurred on by Hayes. Band members composed four out of the twelve tracks, with other numbers from masters like Strayhorn, Mulgrew Miller, Ernie Wilkins, and Cedar Walton.
Nelson’s sparkling, bell-like vibes light up the sound blend like skylights being turned on in a stadium. The soundstage, recorded and produced by Paul Stache, and mixed and mastered by Stache with Roman Klun reward the listener with in-the-room acoustics where Nelson and Burton blend well and Hayes’ talents are on full display.
Louis has a several-minute dynamic solo early on during “Shape Shifting.” Both the two-minute intro to “Lush Life,” followed by the six-minute extended version are sublime as its beauty is explored by Nelson. You know the melody by heart but the vibes sing its praise.
Ernie Wilkins’ relaxed vibe on “Groovin’ for Nat” lets Burton, and Nelson easily explore the chord changes, and we also get an opportunity to appreciate David Bryant and Dezron Douglas on this winning composition. “Simple Pleasures” from the pen of Cedar Walton has Burton and Nelson in a seamless ensemble blend.” Portrait of Jennie” is a vibrato laden ballad tailor made for Abraham Burton.
“Lou’s Idea” is an old school-influenced number that I can imagine on a 1960s Blue Note or Riverside album. Here we have Burton and Nelson taking the place of a Bobby Hutcherson and Stanley Turrentine.
I’m glad that an updated Jazz Communicators is on the scene. The 1967 version featured Louis with Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, and Kenny Barron. It’s kind of tough to match the ‘60s group, but Hayes’ new group makes a pleasurable comparison minus another horn on the front line. The addition of Steve Nelson on vibes makes the new aggregation stand out, though.
TrackList: Soul-Leo, Shape Shifting, Lush Life (Intro), Lush Life, Groovin’ for Nat, It’s to You, Without a Song, Simple Pleasures, Vagabond Ron, Portrait of Jennie, Lou’s Idea, Village Greene