A stomping Texas tenor player in the tradition of Illinois Jacquet, very robust and sometimes raw, who mixes the musical vocabularies of swing, bebop, blues and R&B, and originator of the “Open Prairie” tone and “Southern Preacher” style of playing.
Arnett Cobb has that honking, bar-walking saxophone sound that used to blast from jukeboxes coast-to-coast. There was always excitement elicited by Cobb’s uninhibited, blasting style which earned him the label “Wild Man of the Tenor Sax.”
Cobb was a prolific showman, writer, stylist, arranger, and tenor saxophone technician. His saxophone technique and music style directly influenced Illinois Jacquet, Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, Houston Person, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine, King Curtis, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and a generation of musicians in jazz, swing, R&B, soul, and funk music.
Between 1950 and 1956, Cobb produced a string of hits including “Jumpin’ the Blues,” “Lil Sonny,” “The Shy One,” and “Smooth Sailing”. His combos and support became a career-building platform for Red Garland, George Rhodes, George Duvivier, Dinah Washington and Jackie Wilson.
Cobb received a Grammy nomination in 1979 for best jazz instrumental performance “Live at Sandy’s,” (Muse). He shared a Grammy with B. B. King in 1984 for best traditional blues performance “Blues n’ Jazz,” MCA. In 1986 he founded the Jazz Heritage Society of Texas, which established the Texas Jazz Archives at the Houston Public Library.
Arnett Cobb died in Houston on March 24, 1989, and was survived by his daughter.