Fusion’s Greatest Drummer
“Jazz-rock fusion can divide fans, cramp improv, or appeal mainly to drummers and guitarists, but this is vivid, inventive, meticulously crafted and thoroughly contemporary music for everybody.” -Guardian
Ever since his breakthrough in the early 1970s as a founding member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and as a drummer/leader whose recordings (such as Spectrum) and powerful, complex style of play exerted a strong influence on the course of jazz and jazz-fusion-Billy Cobham has remained a tireless musical explorer.
Born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn, Cobham came to music early, mostly due to his pianist father. After military service, during which he played in the U.S. Army Band as percussionist (1965-68), Cobham began working in Horace Silver’s band. He also performed with Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott, and recorded with George Benson.
In 1969 Cobham co-founded the fusion group Dreams, which also featured Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, John Abercrombie, Don Grolnick, Barry Rodgers, and Will Lee. The following year he was invited to join Miles Davis’s group and contributed to four pivotal recordings by the trumpeter, including Bitches Brew (where he collaborated with guitarist John McLaughlin) and Tribute to Jack Johnson.
Mahavishnu Orchestra was formed by McLaughlin in 1971 with Cobham, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman, and Rick Laird. They released three acclaimed albums (beginning with Inner Mounting Flame) before the band was dissolved and Cobham chose to launch his solo career with Spectrum, one of the definitive albums of the jazz-rock era.
During the 1970s and ’80s, he recorded steadily as a leader, collaborating with artists ranging from George Duke, John Scofield, and Tony Williams to Jack Bruce and the Grateful Dead, both on stage and in the studio.