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Drummer Jimmy Cobb performs during the 47th Heineken Jazzaldia, in San Sebastian, Spain, on July 20, 2012.

RAFA RIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

Jimmy Cobb, a percussionist and the last surviving member of Miles Davis’s 1959 Kind of Blue groundbreaking jazz album, which transformed the genre and sparked several careers, died Sunday.

His wife, Eleana Tee Cobb, announced on Facebook that her husband died at his New York City home from lung cancer. He was 91.

Born in Washington, D.C., Mr. Cobb told the Associated Press in 2019 he listened to jazz albums and stayed up late to hear disc jockey Symphony Sid playing jazz in New York before launching his professional career. He said it was saxophonist Cannonball Adderley who recommended him to Mr. Davis, and he ended up playing on several of Mr. Davis’s recordings.

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But Mr. Cobb’s role as a drummer on the Kind of Blue jam session headed by Mr. Davis would forever change his career. That album also featured Mr. Adderley and John Coltrane.

The album, released on Aug. 17, 1959, captured a moment when jazz was transforming from bebop to something newer, cooler and less structured.

The full takes of the songs were recorded only once, with one exception, Mr. Cobb said. Freddie Freeloader needed to be played twice because Mr. Davis didn’t like a chord change on the first attempt, he said.

Mr. Davis, who died in 1991, had some notes jotted down, but there weren’t pages of sheet music. It was up to the improvisers to fill the pages. “He’d say this is a ballad. I want it to sound like it’s floating. And I’d say, ‘okay,’ and that’s what it was,” Mr. Cobb recalled.

The album received plenty of acclaim at the time, yet the critics, the band and the studio couldn’t have known it would enjoy such longevity. He and his bandmates knew the album would be a hit but didn’t realize at the time how iconic it would become.

“We knew it was pretty damned good,” Mr. Cobb joked.

It has sold more than 4 million copies and remains the best selling jazz album of all time. It also served as a protest album for African American men who looked to Mr. Davis and the jazz musicians to break stereotypes about jazz and black humanity.

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Mr. Cobb would also work with such artists as Dinah Washington, Pearl Bailey, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Wynton Kelly and Stan Getz. He’d also release a number of albums on his own.

He performed well into his late 80s and played in Albuquerque, N.M., in 2017, as part of the New Mexico Jazz Festival. Jazz fans from throughout the American Southwest came to pay their respects in what many felt was a goodbye.

Mr. Cobb released his last album, This I Dig of You, with Smoke Sessions Records in August, 2019.

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