Jimmy Cobb and Louis Hayes are undeniable architects of modern straight-ahead swing whose extensive discographies read like a jazz history lesson. Cobb cooks at a spry eighty-five, and youngster Hayes is hot at seventy-seven. Plain and simple, these gentlemen are still sounding great. As always, Cobb swings a band nice and strong, sans unnecessary clutter or flash. He’s got that smooth cymbal ride, relaxed even under the up-tempo pressure of “Lickety Split,” on which he also trades some fierce fours. Bassist John Webber, guitarist Peter Bernstein, and star pianist Brad Mehldau serve the classic sound with depth and ease.
Hayes’ set, recorded live at the label’s mothership New York club, Smoke, delivers a decidedly different sound, largely due to Steve Nelson’s exhilarating vibraphone work. The mallet man expertly strikes a perfect give-and-take with pianist David Bryant, while tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton blows soulfully over the swinging team of Hayes and bassist Dezron Douglas. Hayes declares a commanding drive, then mixes things up to kick the soloists up a notch or three. And on “Soul-Leo,” he serves up some of the “soul jazz” drumming that he helped trademark alongside Horace Silver. Gather ’round, young drummers, listen and learn. (Smoke Sessions)