Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music
There’s no question that Billy Cobham is one of the most talented and influencial drummers on the planet. I had high hopes going into this one that it would be another “Birds Of Fire” shred-fest. Not quite, although the first song delivers big time in that style. Jan Hammer, his old MAHIVISHNU ORCHESTRA band mate helps out, while Tommy Bolin doesn’t disappoint on guitars. We also get some bass, sax, flugelhorn, trumpet and flute to round out this mostly jazzy sounding album.
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.
Most of drummer Billy Cobham's recordings have featured his groups of the period, but this set for GRP matches him with a variety of all-stars. Three songs feature Grover Washington, Jr. on soprano or tenor; Randy Brecker takes a flugelhorn solo on "Taurian Matador"; and other guests include Tom Scott (on his anonymous-sounding lyricon), keyboardist George Duke and bassist Ron Carter.
Another strong album from a top funky drummer Billy Cobham. While elements of funk were always a part of his band's sound, it was now the primary focus. "Panhandler" stands out as the session's most memorable composition, while Milcho Leviev contributes nicely on "Moody Modes." Cobham fans will want to seek this out for the extended drum solo "A Funky Kind of Thing," which stands as one of the most original drum solos he ever recorded. Of particular interest here is the presence of John Scofield, who had replaced John Abercrombie.
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.