From the Vault...


Billy Cobham

© Atlantic Records

Year of Release: 1973

track listing
  • Quadrant 4
  • Searching For The
    Right Door
  • Anxiety/Taurian Matador
  • Stratus
  • To The Women In
    My Life/Le Lis
  • Snoopy's Search/
    Red Baron

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    Billy Cobham

    Billy Cobham is a jazz drummer, particularly in Jazz Fusion. His debut album was released in 1973, and, to his and his record company's surprise, the album reached #1 on Billboard's Jazz Albums chart. 6 songs are on this release, as some range in 3 minutes or more. Jazz Fusion definitely defines Sprectrum, and it also displays Cobham's drumming skills.

    "Quadrant 4" is the album's leadoff track, and it does surprise the ordinary Jazz listener. It sounds like it could be speed metal. Speed Metal Jazz? Fast, speedo. And for those who are familiar with rock/metal, Van Halen's "Hots For Teacher," with the fast drumming, and the speed of that song itself has a small comparison. But is there such a thing as "Speed Metal Jazz" or "Speed Jazz" ? Judge for yourself on this one, it is different, and does make the listener off-guard. And being Cobham's debut album, what happened to the "Quadrant" 1, 2, and 3?

    But be aware Jazz fans, Spectrum just gets better... There are four tracks on the album, that are medleys of two songs. The first, is "Searching For The Right Door/Spectrum". "Searching For The Right Door" displays Cobham's drumming. Is this short piece (1 minute, 24 seconds) his own drum classic, as in Led Zeppelin and John Bonham's "Moby Dick"? It certainly has fellow drummers listening with amazement, in how they, the drummer themselves, could try and perform like Cobham. (Or maybe even Bonham, since Led Zeppelin was in their starting years, in 1973.) "Spectrum" clocks in at 5 minutes and 9 seconds, and it has a good jazz mood. It compares to an artist that Cobham had performed with, Miles Davis.

    The next medley is "Anxiety/Taurian Matador." Again, Cobham displays his drumming skills in the first minute and 41 seconds. "Taurian Matador" is upbeat, just as the title track heard earlier ("Spectrum"). Yet "Taurian Matador" sounds more of Jazz Fusion.

    The most impressive tune is next: The 9 minute, 50 second "Stratus." It starts out eerie, having a mysterious intro, yet it develops into adventurous Jazz Fusion, then if that isn't enough, it then turns into powerful Rock/Soul/Jazz. The soulfuness of Motown, as heard on Temptations records. If Jimi Hendrix was still with us, I could picture him playing guitar on this track. And speaking of another guitarist, if Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" was speeded up, it just may sound like that.

    The third medley follows, "To The Women In My Life/Le Lis." The first minute and 51 seconds is "To The Women In My Life" has piano (classical), then more great Jazz is heard on "Le Lis." The last medley has Charles Schultz's Peanuts -- Snoopy and the Red Baron. The medley is entitled "Snoopy's Search/Red Baron." "Snoopy's Search" is experimental, with keyboards for the first minute and 2 seconds. "Red Baron" is cool jazz.

    Spectrum defines great Jazz and Jazz Fusion. Although the opening track "Quadrant 4" takes the listerner off-guard, it just gets better throughout. Cobham's "report card" is quite impressive. He performed with other popular jazz artists, as Michael Brecker, Miles Davis, and John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. His credentials as a session musician included George Benson, Milt Jackson, and Grover Washington Jr. In the 1980s he was in Jack Bruce's band, and with the Grateful Dead. He was in a side project band with Bob Weir (Bobby and the Midnites). Weir was a member of the Grateful Dead. In 1994, he joined an all-star cast, that included Stanley Clarke (of which Clarke's music was based), Larry Carlton, Najee and Deron Johnson - Live at the Greek. In 2006, Cobham released Drum 'n' Voice 2, a return to the 1970s jazz-funk sound, with guests including Brian Auger, Guy Barker, Jeff Berlin, Frank Gambale, Jan Hammer, Mike Lindup, Buddy Miles, Dominic Miller, Airto Moreira, John Patitucci, and the band Novecento. In 2009, he released Drum 'n Voice 3. Guests included Alex Acuņa, Brian Auger, George Duke, Chaka Khan, Bob Mintzer, Novecento, John Scofield, and Gino Vannelli.

    Billy Cobham is still with us, as he is 76. He has recorded numerous studio albums since his debut (1973-2017). Besides the many artists he has performed with mentioned, he has also recorded with other artists as well. Spectrum is a great Jazz and Jazz Fusion album. Billy Cobham may not be as popular as some of the artists he has performed with, but he is definitely a talented jazz artist in his own right. Listen to Spectrum, and you'll find out how.

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    Previous Review: #1734
    Cassandra Wilson--New Moon Daughter
    Next Review: #1736
    David Hasselhoff--Du