Al Cobine was an Indiana bandleader, composer/arranger, and saxophonist who helped raise Bloomington’s music scene to national stature.
A native of Richmond, Indiana, Cobine came to Bloomington in the 1950s to pursue a doctorate in political science, but ended up becoming a widely renowned big-band leader instead. He put together orchestras and arrangements for Henry Mancini, Johnny Mathis, Elvis Presley, and many other popular artists. He also directed a Bloomington-based ensemble for decades that backed up many famous entertainers.
Cobine’s own compositions and interpretations of songwriters such as Hoagy Carmichael form an important part of the saxophonist’s contribution to the legacy of Indiana jazz. Songs such as “October in the Air,” like the best of Carmichael’s work, evoke the laidback, lyrical mood of the region.
Cobine was viewed by Indiana University jazz professor David Baker as the link between the Carmichael era and the modern era of jazz education at IU. (Cobine was also a wonderful singer; check out his renditions of Carmichael’s “Skylark” and “Can’t Get Indiana Off My Mind” on Cobine Plays Carmichael.)
Making A Small World Larger
In addition to his compositional contributions, Cobine is cited by former colleague Dominic Spera and Baker for helping to expose talent from the IU School of Music to the wider professional music world. He took students and faculty on the road with him as he backed Mancini, Mathis, and others.
Cobine was also a major presence in the local community. His bands played at the Little 500 and he wrote for groups such as the Singing Hoosiers and Bells of Indiana. Though he never finished his doctorate, he did serve two terms as a member of the Monroe County Council in the 1990s.
The above is a slightly-edited version of a post by David Johnson from May 22, 2009. https://indianapublicmedia.org/nightlights/al-cobine/
His death in 2009, at the age of 82, came after an extended illness, during which he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease combined with heart problems and the debilitating long-term effects of polio that he contracted as a child. “You don’t even have to consider his talent. All the contracting he did. The playing, the singing, the writing he did for musicians,” fellow musician Dominic Spera said shortly after Cobine’s death. “Put aside all of that and say he was one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever known. The most wonderful person I’ve known. Bar none.”
Extracted from a Herald-Times article by By Mike Leonard May 21, 2009