Monday, May 14, 2007

Pichl Engel Cobb - 06/05/2007@L'Archiduc, Bruxelles

Bernharnd Pichl - p
Rudi Engel - b
Jimmy Cobb - d

The crowd was surprisingly young, and predictably included a number of drummers like Lionel Beuvens and Toon Van Dionant there to learn a few lessons from a master. Philip Catherine dropped in on a peer. I even saw rocker and alleged Archiduc regular Arno for the first time.

For a long time, I knew Jimmy Cobb only from Kind Of Blue and thought of him as a "soft" drummer. So I was pretty shocked by his aggressive playing on a pair of live Parisian recordings with the 1960 Miles Davis Quintet, one with John Coltrane (notable for the strongly divided crowd reaction to Coltrane's breathtaking playing), the other with Sonny Stitt. I recently got a 2003 Cobb's Mob album, a pleasant straight-ahead date featuring Eric Alexander and Peter Bernstein, that showed Cobb to still be going strong.

I kind of wondered about the psychological state of the other two members of the trio. The pianist seemed to be the formal leader, as he studiously gave detailled historical background on every repertoire choice. However, it was clear that nobody in the crowd particularly cared about the non-Jimmy Cobb musicians. Instead of seizing the opportunity to surprise, they gave in to the situation, playing cocktail jazz devoid of personality.

The drummer, however, never conceded an inch to the passive mood. He manhandled Charlie Mundell's ballad "Emily" with brusque brush manners, pushed "Love For Sale"'s Afro-Cuban beat and gave a frenetic edge to an uptempo tune early in the second set, before thundering into his solo. He equally enlivened the quieter moments, restricting himself to cymbals to create a lighter-than-air feel on "For Heaven's Sake" and letting individual ride hits hang in the air on a slow blues. A far cry from hearing him at the Olympia in 1960, though.