Billy Cobham


October 19, 2004

It was the rainbow move that got everyone. As Billy Cobham sat behind and in the middle of his kit, he started his roll from the drums furthest to his left and right. Through seven drums, he moved at a super speed inward. This mid-concert fill got cheers and wetted the mouths of a crowd that wanted wizardry from the best living fusion drummer. I was satiated when Cobham performed a flurry of approximately ten repetitions of the rainbow move to end his band's set. He saved this best memory for the end. Cobham was joined by a terrific backing band--a steel drummer/percussionist, bassist, guitarist and keyboardist.

At one point, my friend turned to me and said, "Do you want my drums? I quit." Cobham's technique inspires drummers, but it also makes them feel inadequate and stupid. Entering the concert, I wanted a clinic and a show-off fest from Cobham, but I'm glad he didn't give one. He instead put most of the focus on his band's talents and their songs, which were enjoyable Jazz/Funk pieces peppered with everything from Caribbean to New-Wave flavors. Cobham showed his penchant for flash every once and while, but he was mostly happy to awe with subtle moves. While he sat back on a groove, he completed snare strokes with his right hand that most drummers would have trouble administering with one hand.

Cobham is most famous for his work with Horace Silver, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Miles Davis. After making somewhat of a cameo appearance on Davis' seminal "Bitches Brew," Cobham showed up on "A Tribute to Jack Johnson" and "Live-Evil." Cobham and guitarist John McLaughlin then left Davis' band to form the harder-rocking orchestra, where Cobham made his biggest mark and influenced many Jazz and Prog-Rock drummers.

Cobham wore a trademark scarf tied around his head. He addressed the audience after the first song. He was cordial and thankful. He told the audience he was now his own record company, so he asked them for support of his new album, which his band played many songs from. Even as he got roaring cheers, Cobham barely flinched and kept a humble face on.

For the last song Cobham invited local saxophonist Donald "Big Chief" Harrison, Jr. onstage for a ditty. Harrison played with Cobham before, so he wasn't thrown off by the music's strange changes. This piece was great, just like everything else in the hour and a half set.

After the concert, Cobham held court at the merchandise stand to sign records and advise drummers.

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