How many jazz drummers do you know of with a million selling hit album in the 1950's?
C. Calloway Brooks on Cozy Cole
Cozy, Milt and Benny Payne were the absolute bedrock of one of the most powerful rhythm sections ever. Both played killer grooves and smiled constantly, radiating joy from one end of the gig to another. You see that smile on the picture above? It was planted on Cozy's face from beat one, and stayed there all night long. Irresistible! Like Granddad, the man was a master of every facet of performance.
Though not much is made of it, Cab Calloway introduced the world to the "Missouri Groove" for the better part of a decade before Basie hit town. Granddad's band before the Cotton Club was even called the Missourians! The Calloway groove is a Missouri Groove of the same lineage as Count Basie's. A lot of high hat with a lot of internal variety in it to highlight the sections, strong "chunk" guitar beating out 4, minimalist punctuating piano, and a big toned bass player who digs deep and plucks so hard the bass tone snaps at just the right time.
The unique subtleties of the Calloway groove are what make it a different flavor of rhythm section ice cream from Basie. Calloway is generally less choppy, more horizontal in feeling, and the "4 on the floor" bass drum has more accent and variety to it similar to a Native American tom-tom. Cozy's predecessor Leroy Maxey started it, Cozy perfected it.
b: Oct. 17, 1909, East Orange, NJ; d: Jan. 31, 1981, Columbus, OH
Most of his long career was as a sideman for such leaders as; Willie Bryant, (the suave, Un-Official Mayor of Harlem), Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton and Louis Armstrong. Even before these, Cozy had played with Benny Carter's first (and un-successful) band. That band also had such un-known names as Teddy Wilson (piano); Chu Berry (tenor sax) and a young trombonist named Dickie Wells.
Almost with complete silence, Cozy broke many of the racial barriers in music. He was the first black musician on a network musical staff. CBS radio hired him to work with Raymond Scott in 1943. In 1985, Scott recalled, "Cozy was the most professional musician I've ever worked with."
Cozy played a wildly rhythmic drum solo in the stage show "Carmen Jones" in 1943 saying, "I think I'm the only drummer to have been featured in a big Broadway show with his name on the program."
In 1944, Benny Goodman and Cozy lead a small group at the Onyx Club in New York. His band began to tour and occasionally recorded. In the short times between the touring, Cozy also went off as a soloist to tour Europe along side Jack Teagarden and Earl Hines. In 1953, Gene Krupa and Cozy formed The Krupa And Cole Drum School in New York. "The more you study," Cozy said, "the more you find out you don't know; but the more you study, the closer you come." The school was a great success and remained in operation until Krupa's death in 1973.
The Cozy Cole Combo played the Metropole in New York and recorded a million selling version of "Topsy" in 1958. His group also recorded other notable tunes such as, "Jersey Jump-Off," "Willow Weep For Me," and "Night Wind."
During the 1960's he joined up with his long time friend Jonah Jones. Jones and Cozy played with Stuff Smith and Cab Calloway in the early days and reunited to tour and record. The team remained active throughout the 1970's. In 1978 Cozy was given an honorary degree of Doctor of Musical Arts at Capital University in Columbus. After his retirement, Cozy gained his degree at the same college in lecturer studies. Cozy Cole died at the age of 71 in Columbus January 31, 1981.
"Cozy was like my brother. He was the most wonderful person I ever met. I
first met him in 1936. I was new to New York and Cozy, being from New Jersey,
showed me all around. In those days Harlem was full of great musicians and I was
having a difficult time, because no one knew me. But old Cozy, he saw to it that
I was offered jobs. One time Teddy Wilson offered Cozy a gig to record with some
new singer. Cozy told Teddy that he would only take the job if Teddy hired me.
That was how nice Cozy was. When Cozy and I got down there with Teddy, we met
Johnny Hodges and that young singer's name was Billie Holiday. Cozy was one of a
kind. There'll never be another Cozy, that is for sure." ---Jonah Jones, 1996.
Born 17 Oct 1909, East Orange, New Jersey
Died 31 January 1981, Columbus, Ohio
Cozy Cole had a long and successful career as a sideman,
working with many of the greats in jazz: Louis Armstrong, Benny Carter, Cab
Calloway, and Lionel Hampton. In 1943, he joined Raymond Scott's CBS radio
orchestra. Scott later called him, "The most professional musician I've ever
This Official site is authorized by members the Cab Calloway family, beneficiaries of his Estate, and by the Cab Calloway Orchestra. Copyright © 2000 The Cab Calloway Orchestra
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