Arnett Cobb, born on August 10, 1918, in Houston, Texas, and passed away on March 24, 1989, was an influential American jazz tenor saxophonist known for his robust, soulful playing style, which earned him the nickname “Wild Man of the Tenor Sax.” Cobb was part of the Texas Tenor tradition, a group of saxophonists characterized by their big, bluesy sound.
Cobb began his musical journey at an early age, playing piano and violin before discovering the saxophone at the age of 16. He attended Houston’s prestigious Wheatley High School and played in the school’s big band alongside future jazz legends like Illinois Jacquet and Russell Jacquet.
In 1942, Cobb joined the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, where he replaced Illinois Jacquet as the lead tenor saxophonist. His tenure with the orchestra helped establish him as a prominent figure in the jazz world, and he contributed to several of the band’s most significant recordings, including “Flying Home.”
After leaving the Lionel Hampton Orchestra in 1947, Cobb formed his own band, which had notable success in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He signed with Apollo Records and recorded several hits, including “Smooth Sailing,” which showcased his powerful, swinging style.
Cobb’s career was temporarily derailed by a series of health issues and accidents in the 1950s, including a car accident that left him with a fractured spine. However, he made a triumphant return to music in the 1960s, performing and recording with prominent jazz artists such as Buck Clayton, Wild Bill Davis, and Benny Goodman.
Throughout his career, Cobb continued to be a sought-after sideman and leader, working with numerous jazz luminaries and recording several albums, including “Blow, Arnett, Blow” (1959), “More Party Time” (1960), and “Funky Butt” (1980).
Arnett Cobb passed away at the age of 70, leaving behind a rich musical legacy. His powerful, bluesy playing style and contributions to the Texas Tenor tradition had a lasting impact on the world of jazz, and he is remembered as one of the great tenor saxophonists of his time.
Page last updated 3/18/2023.