Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Billy Cobham established himself as one of the prime architects of the jazz-rock fusion sound as the drummer with such bands as Dreams (featuring the Brecker Brothers), Miles Davis (on his classic 1970 “A Tribute to Jack Johnson” album) and the high-flying Mahavishnu Orchestra. Melding jazz sensibilities and rock aggression, Cobham struck the perfect balance.
Now 70 years old, does Cobham still have the right stuff? Oh yes, indeed, he does. In concert in front of a nearly packed house at The Egg’s Swyer Theatre recently, he deftly walked the tightrope between explosive power and exacting precision.
He was leading his Spectrum 40 Band, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Spectrum, his groundbreaking 1973 solo album debut, but Cobham wasn’t content to merely throw together a “tribute band” for a routine retrospective run through Spectrum in its entirity. Oh no. In fact, he and the band were nearly a half hour into their show before they launched into their first selection from Spectrum, a muscular, funky strut through “Stratus,” which showcased the thrumming bass pulse of Ric Fierabracci, the angular, glitch ‘n’ pop attack of keyboardist Gary Husband and the seismic guitar freak-out of Dean Brown.