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Jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb, the last surviving member of Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’ sextet, has died

Nancy Dillon
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb, the last surviving member of the Miles Davis sextet that produced the masterpiece “Kind of Blue,” died Sunday in Manhattan. He was 91.

The cause of death was lung cancer, his wife Eleana Cobb told the Daily News.

Cobb died surrounded by family at his home, she said.

“He was a very special and unusual person — a gifted musician with natural talent, like an athlete. And a gifted human being with a great, happy personality,” Eleana told the Daily News.

“He played all around the world. He was vibrant up until the end,” she said. “It’s a big deal that he’s gone. It’s very painful. I’m a little bit in shock.”

Cobb lent his talent to other revered recordings such as Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” (1960), “Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall” (1961) and The Miles Davis Quintet’s “Live at the Black Hawk” sessions.

He was born in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 1929, and became a mostly self-taught musician who played by ear with a steady, understated style.

His first recording was with pioneering jazz saxophonist Earl Bostic, and he played extensively with Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey, Dizzy Gillespie and Cannonball Adderley before joining Davis in 1957, according to his website.

When Tony Williams took over the drum chair for Davis in 1963, Cobb left to form a trio with two Davis rhythm section alums — bassist Paul Chambers and pianist Wynton Kelly.

The three recorded with jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell and trombonist J.J. Johnson before disbanding in the late 1960s.

Cobb later worked with iconic singer Sarah Vaughan for nearly a decade.

He discussed his skilled background work when he was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts’ NEA Jazz Masters Award in 2009.

He said collaborating with jazz’s most venerated voices helped him hone his thoughtful, responsive style.

“I guess the sensitivity probably comes from having to work with singers, because you have to really be sensitive there,” he said in an oral history for the Smithsonian. “You have to listen and just be a part of what’s going on.”

His wife said Cobb was sensitive to those around him up until the end.

“He was so kind and understanding,” she told the Daily News. “I wish everyone could know a Jimmy Cobb.”