Billy Cobham, the pioneering jazz-rock fusion drummer who left all his rivals and imitators in the dust when he surfaced in the 1970s, always sounded like a complete musician rather than simply a technical miracle. Approaching 70, he still does. Cobham and a hard-rocking quartet are at Ronnie Scott's, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the drummer's bandleading debut album, Spectrum, by playing most of the music from it, and a little new material besides.
What made this flat-out show so much more than a routine tribute-band trot through a famous tracklist was the enthusiastic drive of the band.
Drummer Billy Cobham was fresh from his success with the Mahavishnu Orchestra when he recorded his debut album, which is still his best. Most of the selections showcase Cobham in a quartet with keyboardist Jan Hammer, guitarist Tommy Bolin, and electric bassist Lee Sklar. Two other numbers include Joe Farrell on flute and soprano and trumpeter Jimmy Owens with guitarist John Tropea, Hammer, bassist Ron Carter, and Ray Barretto on congas. The generally high-quality compositions (which include "Red Baron") make this fusion set a standout, a strong mixture of rock-ish rhythms and jazz improvising.
Following two studio recordings, this impressive band hit the road and cut this session with keyboardist George Duke. Their encounter provided for an uneven, but infectious, recording. "Hip Pockets," composed by Cobham, and "Ivory Tattoo," composed by Scofield, begin the session with some intense playing. Things get a bit goofy with "Space Lady" (a song which probably worked better live), and a bit melodramatic with "Almustafa the Beloved."
A two-LP set of drummer Billy Cobham's harder to find recordings from the later '70s. Of the two, Magic is far superior and is generally regarded as one of his most interesting recordings in his extensive discography. The addition of Simplicity of Expression: Depth of Thought amounts to nothing more than a throw in. Cobham recorded some embarrassing disco during the late '70s and this is a prime example. This two-fer is too good to pass up, though, and makes the LP highly recommended for fusion collectors.
A lesser known Cobham recording that has only been available in the U.S. as an import. Cobham also seems to push guitarists to new heights (i.e. Tommy Bolin, John Abercrombie, John Scofield) and does so here with Barry Finnerty. Their interaction on the tune "Flight Time" is reminiscent of Cobham/Bolin on Spectrum. Yet, despite the intensity and chops of Finnerty and Cobham, this session is remarkably restrained thanks in large part to the thoughtful playing of keyboarist Don Grolnick. There is a definite sense of a band here, rather than just a collection of all-stars playing Billy Cobham songs; in fact, the only Cobham retread is "Antares" (from Magic). Whether it is Don Grolnick's piano solo on "6 Persimmons" or his opening duet with Barry Finnerty on "Princess," Cobham should get just as much credit for what he did not play.
Generally acclaimed as fusion's greatest drummer, Billy Cobham's explosive technique powered some of the genre's most important early recordings – including groundbreaking efforts by Miles Davis and the Mahavishnu Orchestra – before he became an accomplished bandleader in his own right. At his best, Cobham harnessed his amazing dexterity into thundering, high-octane hybrids of jazz complexity and rock & roll aggression. He was capable of subtler, funkier grooves on the one hand, and awe-inspiring solo improvisations on the other; in fact, his technical virtuosity was such that his flash could sometimes overwhelm his music.
Features 24-bit digital remastering. Comes with a mini-description. A solid effort that has been dismissed based upon its associations with two Cobham lemons, Simplicity of Expression: Depth of Thought and B.C., all recorded around the same time. This recording finds Cobham continuing to explore the funk genre; however, the overall mood here is quite darker and more introspective, similar to Crosswinds.