Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bill Cosby just played John Coltrane for me

Photo Credit:  Erinn Chalene Cosb
I've done some interesting interviews over the years.

But few, if any, beat the 90-minute one I did this morning with Bill Cosby, or, as I called him, "Mr. Cosby."

We talked about his days doing comedy in the Greenwich Village of the 1960s, "The Cosby Show" and the twisted mentality behind people who create celebrity death hoaxes such as the ones Mr. Cosby has endured.

Mr. Cosby asked my age, marital status and offered smart life lessons.

We agreed on the poignancy of a certain New Testament passage.

But what really got us going —especially Mr. Cosby — was jazz.

Turned out we're both enthusiasts of contemporary great Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, St. Pete-based piano ace Kenny Drew Jr. and countless classic artists such as Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson and John Coltrane.

We talked a lot about Coltrane. At one point, Mr. Cosby and I grappled with an album title. He gave me ample clues but I couldn't nail it. Opportunity lost, I thought.

The interview ended without either of us being able to recall that certain Coltrane record.

About five minutes went by. I talked to a reporter seated near me about the interview. Prepared to work on another story.

Then our metro editor yelled from across the newsroom:

"Hey, Wade, Bill Cosby's on the phone, what's your extension?"

Mr. Cosby had remembered the Coltrane album title: "Ascension."

More Coltrane talk led to him mentioning Coltrane's "One Down One Up: Live at the Half Note," which I sheepishly admitted to not knowing.

"Mind holding on for a moment?" Mr. Cosby asked.

After several minutes of searching — "No you look there, I'm looking here" — Mr. Cosby played me a portion of the title track, which clocks in at 27:39, while expertly remarking on the musicianship.

We talked some more. I thanked him for his time — sounding perhaps a bit too grateful. Mr. Cosby made a kind joke and said goodbye.

Look for my feature story on Bill Cosby to run in the Herald prior to his two performances Jan. 16 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota.

John Coltrane: "One Up One Down"

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