Jimmy Cobb (1929-2020)

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Jimmy Cobb, a drummer whose sensitive, smoldering touch on Miles Davis albums such as Kind of Blue and Some Day My Prince Will Come gave the trumpeter’s masterful sextet and quintet a sheer, elegant quality, died on May 24. He was 91.


Jimmy began his recording career on Dinah Washington 78s in the late 1940s followed by alto saxophonist Earl Bostic in the early 1950s. He then recorded LPs with Cannonball Adderley and his brother Nat throughout the 1950s. In fact, it was Cannonball who recommended Jimmy to Davis.


His work with Adderley led to a series of superb albums by John Coltrane during his Prestige and Atlantic years, including Stardust, Bahia, Giant Steps (only on the ballad Naima) and Coltrane Jazz. He also played drums on several of Wes Montgomery’s albums for Riverside and Verve, including Full House, Boss Guitar and Guitar on the Go. Throughout the balance of his career, Jimmy worked steadily recording and touring as a sideman and a leader.

Over the years, I had a chance to interview Jimmy on a range of jazz subjects and albums, thanks to the grace of his wife, Eleana Tee Cobb. Jimmy was always open, relaxed and informative, aware that talking about the past was important for preserving jazz history.

Here is my complete Jimmy Cobb interview posted in January 2009, beginning with ny original introduction:


There’s a moment on Miles Davis‘ Stella by Starlight in 1958 that crystallizes drummer Jimmy Cobb’s brilliance. It happens in a flash, as Davis holds the final note of his trumpet solo and John Coltrane comes in on tenor saxophone. Typically, drummers don’t get a chance to make that much of a difference on jazz recordings, save for keeping time and egging on soloists. But in this case, Jimmy’s seamless change from wispy brushes behind Miles to solid wood rim shots to support Coltrane completely changes the mood and energy level of the standard. What had been up until that moment a sound akin to tiptoeing on hot gravel instantly felt like a breakaway gallop. Once Coltrane wrapped, Jimmy once again swapped sticks for brushes behind Bill Evans’s solo.

These tasteful shifts perfectly define Jimmy Cobb’s combination of sensitivity and power. No matter the recording, Jimmy’s drumming always expressed a restrained tension that never failed to move the needle on the listener’s anxiety level. Jimmy’s ability to accompany artists by building intensity with brushes and sticks—without stealing their thunder—is one of the many reasons why he was always in demand as a session player with the greatest names in jazz.


JazzWax: Your first major recording was in 1951, on Earl Bostic’s Flamingo, a massive hit.

Jimmy Cobb: Yeah, it sold a lot of records. A lot of those Earl Bostic songs had the same general beat because Bostic had a thing he had to do to make money. He was a great saxophone player. He could play some notes on the horn that weren’t there. A whole octave above what the instrument was supposed to do. When [John] Coltrane came into his band, he learned a lot from Bostic. Like playing three notes at once and notes above what the horn could do. Bostic could make his alto sound like a tenor.

JW: Flamingo is a pretty famous recording.

JC: I went to Russia once with trumpeter Valery Ponomarev. The man who ran the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory was an alto player and wasn’t fully aware of my background. He said to me, “I just found a recording of Earl Bostic’s. It’s called Flamingo. Do you know it?“ [laughing] „Flamingo?“ I said. “Hmmm, I’m not sure. Take a look at the clientele on there and tell me who’s playing.” When the guy saw I was the drummer, he was floored.


JW: Was playing behind Bostic hard? There’s a lot of beat there.

JC: The drummer who was with Bostic before me [Shep Shepherd] was from the old school. He had a big foot, like Buddy Rich. He was a good drummer. When I got there, I was leaning over into bebop, but Bostic wouldn’t let me play those figures. Because that wasn’t what he wanted. [Photo above of Shep Shepherd]

JW: Nearly everything Bostic recorded had that stripper beat. Did you play burlesque?

JC: That’s funny you should ask. Yes, I played burlesque shows around Washington, D.C., when I was a kid. You had to be able to play everything back then. Everybody who played drums had to play all those different kind of ways. For Bostic, it was mostly back beats and shuffles. But you had to get power in there and sustain it for 10 to 20 minutes, which wasn’t easy.

JW: So are you sick of hearing Flamingo?

JC: [laughing] No, not really. I haven’t heard it in some time.

JW: After Bostic, you were with Dinah Washington on her albums starting in late 1951. How was she able to memorize so many offbeat blues songs?

JC: That’s what people did back then. They memorized everything. You had to. Dinah was raised in the Baptist church and could play the piano. So the blues was second nature to her. She could read lyrics and music. She was a good musician.

JW: Was she tough in the recording studio?

JC: Not too bad. She was pretty regular and decent. I don’t remember her going crazy.

JW: You were with Washington from 1951 to 1955. Did she like you?

JC: Actually we were going together, which made our musical relationship a little tighter. Sometimes she was tough. She liked to start things. We had a girl working for the band named Rose. One day we were in the [orchestra] pit of the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Dinah asked Rose to go downstairs to find a bucket of steam. Well Rose didn’t know what that meant and was too afraid to ask. So she went downstairs and tried to find a bucket of steam. 

JW: What is a bucket of steam?

JC: It ain’t nothing. [laughing] Poor Rose would go around telling people, „Dinah’s looking for a bucket of steam,“ and they’d laugh at her. 

JW: Did Washington go through a lot of people?

JC: Oh yes. She had a cruel streak like that. Probably because she was brought up around Gladys Hampton, Lionel’s wife and the person who ran Hamp’s business side. Gladys used to buy Dinah nice things to wear on stage but at the end of the week she’d take it out of her pay. Most of the time it was stuff Dinah couldn’t afford. So Dinah would do the same thing to the girls who worked for her. They couldn’t afford what she was buying for them and they never would have bought those things for themselves.

JW: Did you love Dinah?

JC: Yes I did. I had feelings for her.

JW: How did it end?

JC: It ended kind of funny. Dinah was doing different things, and she thought that it was OK. One time I did the same thing and told her, and she went off. Today they call it seeing other people. Well, I got my things and moved up the street. We were living at 2040 7th Ave. in New York, which was an apartment house where many celebrities lived. Erroll Garner lived there. Dizzy and Lorraine [Gillespie] lived there, too.

JW: What did you learn from Dinah?

JC: Feelings. I was brought up in a Catholic church. I was used to hearing carols and music like that. Dinah was a Baptist. When I heard that Baptist sound, it took me over. I wasn’t used to hearing that. It would make the hairs stand up on my arms and neck, where people are singing and shouting in church. That struck me right away. She taught me to put the passion into what I was doing. 


JW: Where did you meet Cannonball Adderley?

JC: I met Cannon when I was with Dinah. I met him when we were on tour in Florida. He was standing outside of the hotel when we were checking in. He was standing there and wanted to talk to me about New York. He was interested in coming up to the city and wanted to hear all the news about what guys like Jackie McLean were doing. Soon after he got a band together of his homeboys from the Ft. Lauderdale area. He also got a manager, John Levy, and brought him to hear his band.

JW: Who was in the group?

JC: Cannon’s brother, Nat. So was Junior Mance and Sam Jones. John Levy heard the band and said, “The band sounds great but you need a stronger drummer.” I can’t remember who Cannon had at the time, but he asked me to replace him. We had a good little band there. I recently listened to some of those records and was very impressed.


JW: Did Adderley take the band on the road?

JC: Oh yes. One time we went back to the town in Florida where Cannon started out. Back then, Nat used to sing a lot. They gigged in Ft. Lauderdale, at a place called Porky’s. Nat used to get tips for his singing and split them with Cannon. Well, we went back there, and after we played a couple of tunes in the first set, the club’s owner came up to us and said, “When’s the little guy going to sing?” Cannon looked at him and said, “Oh, we don’t do that anymore.” The guy said, “Really? Well, get your shit packed up and get out of here.” [laughing] The guy put it down. He liked Nat’s singing and didn’t know about the bebop stuff.

JW: Did Cannon have his nickname by them?

JC: Yes. His original nickname was Cannibal, because he ate so much. But Cannibal became Cannonball. He was a sweetheart. A smart, intelligent guy who could play.


JW: How did Junior Mance sound?

JC: Junior was a child prodigy. Dinah used to use him sometimes, but he was so young that she had to go to his mother and ask permission and promise to take care of him. Junior has always been a good player. He had a thing about the rhythm sometimes back then, but he was a great player.

JW: How did you join Miles Davis in 1958?

JC: I came to Miles through Cannonball. Philly Joe [Jones] had first played drums with Miles in 1953 and was a member of his groups since 1955. But by 1958,, Philly was recording on many different musicians‘ records. He was so established that he was getting ready to leave Miles and start his own thing.

JW: How did Jones’s career plans affect his role as Miles Davis‘ drummer?

JC: He was starting to come late to Miles‘ jobs. Cannon was especially worried because he needed the job. He was living in Nat’s apartment in New York and couldn’t stand not to have a gig, you know? When Cannon saw that Philly wasn’t showing up, he wasn’t sure if Miles was going to keep the thing going.


JW: What did Adderley do?

J C: He told Miles, “I know this guy who can swing and read, and he can come and sit on the side, and if [Philly] Joe don’t show, he can play.” That was me. Miles agreed, and when Joe didn’t show one night, I played. Soon after, the same thing happened at a record date. I think it was the On Green Dolphin Street session. Miles dug what I did on there.

JW: Why wasn’t Philly Joe Jones showing up?

JC: I don’t know. He had some problems that he had to take care of, and sometimes those problems took longer than others.


JW: How did you know Davis dug what you were doing?

JC: If Miles didn’t like what he heard, he’d let you know quick. One time when I was hanging around, before I joined the group, [Philly] Joe didn’t show up at a club matinee down in Philadelphia. Miles announced, “Anybody got some drums?” Some kid standing against the wall jumped forward and said, “Yeah Miles, I got some drums out in the car.” Miles said, “Great, go get them.” The kid went and got his drums and set them up and sat down and played.

JW: How did the gig turn out?

JC: The kid played as good as he could. When he got off, he went up to Miles and asked, “How’d I do?” Miles looked at him and said, “Go tell Paul [Chambers] you’re sorry.” [laughs] Now that was cold. Miles would let you know how you did in his way.

JW: Did Davis ever do stuff like that to you?

JC: No. One time he said something to me, and I said, “Man, let me play the drums.” He said, “Alright.” After that, me and him were like tight. I used to drive him to the gym and take pictures of him shadow boxing and all that stuff. If you see pictures of him at the gym, I probably took them. Another time, he said, “I sure wish I could swing like Wynton [Kelly].” I looked at him and said, “I sure wish you could, too, Miles.” [laughing]

JW: How did Davis react?

JC: He gave me a look, but we were pretty good friends. He knew I was always there when we played. That was Miles’s thing. He was always watching to see what you were going to bring.


JW: Your first recordings with Davis were in late May 1958, the On Green Dolphin Street session.

JC: Yeah, man, I liked that song. I like the way it starts. I like the way Bill [Evans] set that up. Miles decided to do it that way, to build the anticipation, the tension.


JW: Then Porgy & Bess was recorded that summer.

JC: That session scared me, man. I was looking at 25 musicians when I walked in. I said to myself, “What am I going to do now?” Fortunately Gil Evans had music there and the charts weren’t that tough.

JW: Kind of Blue was recorded over two dates in the spring of 1959. In retrospect, was it as great a recording as many people think?

JC: I think so. It is what it is. People still love it because it is great. The hype is there because it’s real.


JW: Was the So What riff inspired by Oscar Pettiford’s Bohemia After Dark?

JC: I don’t know anything about that. But who knows? Funny things used to happen in the studio. We’d be in a recording session, and the engineer would say, “What song was that, Miles?” Miles would tell him, and the guy would write it down and credit Miles. A bunch of songs were attributed to Miles that way—like Four and Tune Up. Both were really by Eddie „Cleanhead“ Vinson. I heard Cleanhead one time asked Miles for some money for those records. Cleanhead really deserves more credit. He was a good blues singer and a good player.

JW: What was it like to play with Bill Evans on Kind of Blue?

JC: Sweet. Bill was a good piano player. On All Blues, he kept that tremolo going throughout the whole thing, and it made the record. I said to myself, “Wow, that guy is holding that tremolo in his left hand the whole time.” We didn’t talk much. Bill was a quiet kind of guy. 

JW: How did Davis treat Evans?

JC: They were cool. But Miles had his way of dealing with everyone in a funny way. I remember the group was riding in a car to a gig someplace in Ohio. Miles was talking, and Bill went to say something. Miles said, “Hold it, hold it man. We don’t want no white opinions.” Everyone kind of got quiet. Bill didn’t say anything, but his expression said “Whoa.”

JW: Where was Davis coming from?

JC: No place. He respected everyone who played with him. But he also was fast to get in close and say something like that. Most people didn’t get that difference with Miles. It wasn’t a racial thing. But Bill didn’t know Miles was fooling with him at the time. It was like Dinah Washington’s thing about getting her a bucket of steam. Miles was a funny little guy. He was always busting in your face to see what your reaction would be.

JW: And Davis was fast with those lines.

JC: That’s right. On one of the Kind of Blue recording sessions, I was playing circles with brushes on the snare drum during a sound check. I had a brand new head on the snare, so the wire brushes sounded louder, hissy-er than if the head were older and more broken in. The engineer on the date came in over the monitor speaker and said, “Hey I’m getting white noise on the drums.” Miles said without missing a beat, “No, don’t worry about it, that’s part of it.” [laughing] Miles loved to throw people off. He thrived on the stuff he stirred up.

JW: Davis had his own way of saying things, didn’t he? You either got the subtext or you didn’t.

JC: Oh yes. One time Miles was stranded in Detroit. This is before I even got to know him. Someone interviewing him asked him, “Miles I heard one time in Detroit you was pimping.” Miles said, “Pimping? No, no I wasn’t pimping. Some girls who liked me wanted to take me out. The girls used to come by and see me and give me money, like $100, every day.” [laughing] He had the whole definition of pimping down except for the term itself. And he twisted it all around so the girls were somehow doing him a favor.

JW: What do most people not know about Kind of Blue?

JC: Probably the power of it. It was a strong thing. Also, that Bill Evans had a bigger hand in writing many of those songs than most people realize. The feeling was very close to the way Bill played piano. Bill kind of got Miles into that groove. Years later, when Miles got Wayne Shorter, he got into Wayne’s groove, too. Miles would develop whatever he heard that felt good to him.

JW: There was a bit of a mix-up on Kind of Blue with Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, wasn’t there?

JC: That’s right. Miles had Wynton Kelly in to the studio to play Freddie Freeloader [on March 2, 1959]. Wynton came in from Brooklyn, but when he showed up, Wynton saw Bill there and didn’t understand what was happening. By then he was officially in the sextet.

JW: What did he say to Davis?

JC: He didn’t say nothing to Miles. He said to me, “Man, what’s happening? I thought I was on the gig.” I said, „You are, man, don’t panic. Bill’s just going to play something [So What] and you’re going to play something. So don’t worry about it. See, everybody winds up getting paid.” [laughing]. That cooled Wynton off right away. We were friends. I could talk to him like that. I’dknown Wynton since he was 19 years old.


JW: In late 1959, creative differences were creating a bit of friction between Davis and John Coltrane. You recorded with Coltrane on Coltrane Jazz. Davis didn’t mind?

JC: Nah. That’s just the way it was. Trane wound up leaving Miles [in 1960] because he wanted to go in a different direction. The beauty of playing with Trane is that you could play anything you wanted. He didn’t care. He just wanted you to swing him up. Do what you had to do. He used a whole lot of trios that included Cedar Walton, Arthur Taylor and Paul Chambers. Most were with Paul. He and Paul were living together at the time.

JW: What did Coltrane think of your playing?

JC: Trane dug my drumming. We was pretty cool. One time when Elvin [Jones] couldn’t make it, I think it was around 1961, Trane called me to go to Chicago with him in the dead of winter. I said, “Trane, listen, baby, you know after one tune I’m wet [perspiring] to start out. If I go to Chicago like that, I’m going to catch pneumonia and die out there.” I said “Look man, I love you, but I’m not going to go out there and die.” [laughs]


JW: Did Coltrane understand?

JC: Oh yes. He asked who I thought he should get to take my place. I suggested Roy Haynes. That’s who he wound up going with.

JW: In January 1960 you played on This Here Is Bobby Timmons. What was Timmons like as an artist?

JC: Bobby reinvented the piano on that thing. He had a real country feeling about a lot of that. Gospel, funk and everything. We had a lot of fun. Earlier in his career he played with Dinah [Washington]. We had him out on the road for about a minute.

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JW: How was it different to play behind Timmons and Bill Evans?

JC: It’s two totally different ideologies. Bill comes off like a European kind of classical thing. And Bobby comes off with a down home funk kind of a thing. Country style. Usually, in a situation like that, the drummer doesn’t have to adjust that much. You’re just playing rhythm, whether it’s Bill, Bobby or anyone else. I remember Bobby came into the studio on that record date and said, “I got this little thing I want to play.“ And he starts singing it to me [Jimmy scats a rhythm]. I say, wait a minute. Then Bobby tells the bass player [Sam Jones], „I want you to play this“ [Jimmy scats a bass line]. He just comes in with those down home things and put them together. [laughs] We tried to do the best we could, and it came out all right. Bobby was a good player, and he matured a lot, man. He played in a lot of different meters.

JW: Timmons‘ hands were large, weren’t they?

JC: Yeah, he had kind of big hands. Not like [Harold] Mabern’s, but they were big. Bobby [pictured] was a shy little guy when I first met him. He was still like a little boy. But Bobby and I worked a lot together. I made four records with him.


JW: When Coltrane left the Miles Davis sextet in 1960, Davis replaced him with Sonny Stitt. On recordings, they sound like they’re a million miles apart, stylistically.

JC: They were. Miles wanted Sonny [pictured] to play like Bird [Charlie Parker] on that tour. Sonny wanted to play alto and tenor. But Miles didn’t want him to play tenor. Miles said, “Man, I’m going to step on that tenor.” Sonny would get all upset and say, “Oh, man, Miles.” That was Miles’ way of letting Sonny know how he felt. Sonny took the tenor on tour with us anyway. 

JW: Were they getting along?

JC: Yes. It wasn’t like that. Everything was cool. Why?

JW: When you listen to the recordings, Miles’s sound is distinctly 1960 but Sonny’s playing sounds like it’s 1949.

JC: [Laughs] That’s how Miles wanted Sonny to sound, like Bird. When we were on that European tour, every time Sonny put the alto in his mouth, audiences went nuts. That’s what Miles wanted. That’s why Miles didn’t want him to play tenor. Miles dug that showtime alto sound. There was no animosity there.

JW: In the spring of 1961, you recorded with Davis‘ on Someday My Prince Will Come. Whose idea was it to open the title track with those dramatic metronome-like cymbal strokes?

JC: Mine. I thought I had made a mistake by hitting the cymbal too high up and too hard. I thought the engineer might not have been able to control it. But during the playback, everyone liked it just as it was. 

JW: How did Coltrane come to play on the title track? He was no longer in Davis’s group.

JC: By the time we recorded that album, Coltrane was working as a leader. On one of the days we recorded [March 20], Trane was playing at the Apollo Theater. Miles told him: “Come down to the recording session, if you can, between your thing and play something.”

JW: At this point, Hank Mobley was on tenor saxophone in the group.

JC: That’s right. So after Hank played his solo on

Someday My Prince Will Come, we looked through the glass of the engineer’s booth and there was Trane. In the middle of the song, Miles waved for him to come into the studio. Trane took out his horn and played the part he played, the second solo.

JW: It was a pretty stunning solo. How did Hank feel about that?

JC: Hank was already done. He had already put his solo down. I don’t know how he felt about it. You have to understand, Miles did that to a lot of guys. He had a working band once with both Sonny Rollins and Trane. At the time, Sonny was the tenor saxophone colossus. Trane wasn’t that well known yet. Sonny got up there and like smacked Trane every night they played until they made Tenor Madness [in May 1956]. I think Sonny was kind of sorry he had him on that date ‚cause he was about to hit his peak on that one.

JW: Was that a big turning point for Coltrane?

JC: When Trane got into playing the things he got into [in 1959], I think that blew Sonny’s mind. That’s when Sonny went up on the [Williamsburg] Bridge. Getting back to Sonny and Trane, Miles would do that on the bandstand to keep the edge going. He hired them both. They both knew they were going to be there. Miles would play the outside of a tune and sit down or walk to the bar and let them have at it. 


JW: What went wrong on Quiet Nights in 1962 with Gil Evans? Not much was recorded.

JC: I don’t know. I think that bossa nova stuff was brand new to Miles. I was just there trying to do what he wanted.

JW: Why weren’t you the drummer on Miles’ second quintet, the one he started in 1964?

JC: Because I quit. In 1963 we were on tour. In the middle of the tour, Paul [Chambers] and Wynton [Kelly] left because of a misunderstanding with Miles over money. But we had six more weeks to go. Paul and Wynton wanted me to quit, too, to form a trio. I said, “Man, I can’t quit now. I need to do this tour.” I needed the money. So Paul and Wynton went back to New York and worked for a while around Brooklyn with [drummer] Arthur Taylor.

JW: Whom did Miles hire to replace them?

JC: Miles went out and got Ron Carter [on bass] and Harold Mabern [on piano] along with Frank Strozier on alto and George Coleman on tenor. That’s how we finished the tour. When we finished, I gave notice. I wanted to join Paul and Wynton to form a trio. It was time.


JW: What did Davis say?

JC: He said, “Cool. Go do the trio.” He asked me who he should get to take my place. We were out in L.A. at the time. I said, „About the best drummer I know out here is Frank Butler.“ So Miles called Frank Butler to record tracks for Seven Steps to Heaven. [By then Miles had dropped Strozier and had Coleman play alto saxophone; Victor Feldman replaced Mabern.]

JW: But Butler is on only the L.A. portion recorded in April 1963.

JC: Miles had some problems with Frank’s drumming and didn’t want him around anymore after L.A. So when the group got back to New York [in May] to record the rest of Seven Steps, Miles hired Tony [Williams on drums] and Herbie [Hancock on piano].


JW: After you left the group, you recorded with Wes.

JC: Yes, I recorded Boss Guitar the day after I left Miles. Playing with Wes was great. We had a great time. Wes had about nine children he had to take care of. He had about three jobs, and only one of them was music. The other was construction and another was security guard at a milk factory. He slept just a few hours every day for 10 years, which is probably what made his heart bad. He worked too hard trying to take care of all those people. He didn’t read music but he could swing.


JW: Was Smokin at the Half Note in 1965 as exciting as it sounds.

JC: Oh yes. Wynton could play with anyone, and he sounded good all the time—whether he was sick, drunk, in any tempo. Always. He didn’t know any other way to play. Wynton was born in Jamaica and moved to New York soon after. He was raised in Brooklyn and was a child prodigy. He just went to the piano one day and started to play it. By the time he was 16 years old, Wynton had already made records [with Hal Singer in 1948]. The first time I met him with Dinah, he was 21 and I was 19. The first time we played together, I knew we were a perfect match. But that’s how he was with everybody. He could play with everybody and sounded great every time.

JW: What was Kelly like as a person?

JC: Wynton was a fun-loving guy. He’d give you his last $5 or the shirt off his back. And he was the “mayor” of his neighborhood in Brooklyn. Everybody knew and loved him. He’d play the numbers and then go to a happy hour at a bar from 5 to 7 pm. We used to hang out and do that and wait for the numbers to come out. He was a sweet guy. After that, he’d catch a cab and go into New York and play his ass off.


JW: You also played with Red Garland throughout your career. How did Red differ from Wynton?

JC: Red started out trying to play like Ahmad  Jamal. That’s what Miles was trying to fashion his original group on: Ahmad’s sound. When Miles was in Chicago, he used to go to the Pershing every night and listen to Ahmad. Ahmad was his man. Red made albums that were exact duplicates.

JW: Red had punctuality problems, didn’t he?

JC: [Laughs] Red could really swing. But sometimes he’d show up late. Other musicians on the date would get angry. When he’d arrive, he’d always tell some kind of astronomical lie. One time he came in late and said, “I’m sorry. I was coming down on the subway and some fool jumped off in front of the train and we had to wait until they got the guy out.” That was a lie because Red had a car!”

JW: Was he forgetful or just casual about the clock?

JC: Casual. Another time, we were working with Miles at the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. We opened on Friday, and Red didn’t get there until the midnight show on Saturday night. So we played a whole day without him. On another date, we played Birdland in New York. Red was uptown, at the back of the Apollo Theater, hanging out. Guys would be walking up to him saying, “Hey, Red, ain’t you working downtown?” Red would say, “Oh, yeah, yeah I’m about to go down there now.” I don’t know. He had some time thing with him.

JW: What did you think of Red’s playing?

JC: Red was a Texas swinger. A real blues player. I played Red’s last recorded live gig. We went to Japan [in 1980 with Lou Donaldson on alto and Jamil Nasser on bass]. Jamil had to go get him at his house in Texas to bring him to the airport. It took him about a half hour for Red to walk through the airport to get to the gate. He was in such bad shape the first two or three days.

JW: Red had a rough few years there.

JC: Toward the end, Red would be at his house in Texas. His wife would make him his dinner. She’d say, “OK Red, I’m going to work. Your food is on the table.” She’d get back after work and the food would still be on the table. He’d be there drinking beer and stuff. 

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JW: Last question: What’s your absolute favorite track from Kind of Blue?

JC: Freddie Freeloader, which we played with Wynton. And Bill Evans’ Blue in Green. I liked all of that stuff Bill put together for the album.


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