Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jazz Thursday: Billy Cobham

Words By Zach Zeidner


When the subject of best Jazz fusion drummers comes up in a conversation, it’s almost inevitable to mention one of the greatest fusion drummers of all time, Billy Cobham. The Panamanian-American drummer began as a standard Jazz drummer for musicians such as Stanley Turrentine, George Benson, and Shirley Scott. Eventually he went on to play for Miles Davis on A Tribute To Jack Johnson, where he used his incredible sense of groove to allow the opening track, “Right Off”, to develop into this cyclically complex funk driven jam that easily became one of Miles Davis’ most notable post-Bitches Brew arrangements. After his work with Miles Davis, he hooked up with John McLaughlin and worked with him to create the Mahavishnu Orchestra. In this project, Cobham demonstrated his monstrous drumming technique that was fueled by the intense tempo driven compositions that required Cobham to demonstrate his mastery of technicality and precision. After working with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Cobham decided to go off on his own and produce some solo albums with various musicians. The first of which, Spectrum, proved to be exactly what fans of Cobham expected. A mainly funk driven masterpiece of elaborate compositions, this album acted as a launching point in Cobham’s solo career. He went on to produce many albums throughout his career with multiple legends as well as numerous contemporaries and is still creating new music and touring today.

Alivemutherforya was a studio release by Billy Cobham in 1978. This six track funk driven album is full of lavish improvisations that demonstrate the talents of the incredible musicians backing Cobham. With Alphonso Johnson on bass, Steve Kahn on guitar, Tom Scott on saxophones, and Mark Soskin on keys the lineup is sure not to disappoint. Psychedelic funk-rock compositions intertwined with a couple interesting fusion ballads makes this album an enjoyable listen anytime. Cobham demonstrates his ability to just lay back and create an everlasting groove that pushes the jams to an irresistible head bobbing level that does nothing less than make you want to put the album on repeat. “Some Punk Funk” and “Bahama Mama” prove to be the funky tunes that will make you want to get down, while other tunes such as “Shadows” and “Spindrift” create a lulling ambiance that demonstrates the beauty of electric ballads. The album leaves you bewildered with “On A Magic Carpet Ride” that shows Cobham’s true colors as the musicians seem to race for the finish line.

Purchase Billy Cobham's Alivemutherforya at


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