Photo courtesy Brendan Smialowskap
BILL COSBY HAS gone from a lovably cantankerous national treasure to a remarkably quarrelsome one, but he remains warm and witty — a sparkplug saying commonsense things in a provocative fashion, eager to start a dialogue about topics such as the state of the black family.

He gets into it with little prodding, cycling back often to his most important messages.

“Get the education,” he solemnly advises. “Stop throwing it away. Fathers, come claim your children so that they don’t feel abandoned, so that there can be some happiness. The home is where we’re pointing and saying, ‘We’re got to tighten this up.'”

After revisiting Cosby’s beef with “the rap music,” we asked him about jazz.

» EXPRESS: You criticize rap music a lot.
» COSBY: How do I criticize it?

» EXPRESS: The lyrical content.
» COSBY: Yes, and what part of the lyric?

» EXPRESS: The vulgarity.
» COSBY: What I’m talking about is your lyrics that lead people into a sense of violence with no feeling of civil rights, no feeling of activism. The irresponsibility, the thought that entails, “I’m gonna pick up a gun and I’m gonna get it that way, cause I’m angry, and I’m sad. I feel sad.”

That thought that it’s all right to take the female and, on record, say things about her, that have to do with the treatment, shows that there’s no need for love.

» EXPRESS: Do you have any favorite stories about jazz gigs in D.C.?
» COSBY: OK, way back, in the ’50s and the ’60s, two places were very important: Abarts and Bohemian Caverns. And the Blues Alley is a wonderful, wonderful place. I sat in with Dizzy Gillespie there.

» EXPRESS: On the drums?
» COSBY: No, cowbell.

» EXPRESS: Did you get really into it?
» COSBY: No, I was standing back there smiling and hoping not to mess up. Dizzy loved to ham, but I’m not gonna ham on the rhythm, ’cause he had Candy Finch on the drums. Candy was a drummer that had four arms. And there’s a guy you need to look up today: Buck Hill.

» EXPRESS: Buck Hill is great.
» COSBY: OK! Now, here’s my story: I talked to Jimmy Heath; you got me? Jimmy said, “A lot of cats came into D.C. who were heralded, who played the horn — alto and tenor — and nobody warned them about Buck Hill. And the time would come and Buck was onstage and this player would come up, thinking he was something, and he’d get into a jam session with Buck Hill. Man, you get into a jam session with Buck Hill, you gonna come out skinned up.”

» Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; Sat., 9:30 p.m., $54-$79; 202-467-4600. (Foggy Bottom-GWU)

Written by Express contributor Tim Follos
Photo by Brendan Smialowski