My absolute all-time favorite drumming album since the early 70’s is Billy Cobham’s Spectrum. Max Roach, Louis Bellson, Buddy Rich, Art Blakey and Tony Williams laid the vital groundwork for Cobham to blow our doors off the hinges, and for this, I am most grateful.

For you drummers under the age of 30, the music world is a very different place than it was even thirty years ago. Now, we all have access to computer-based recording equipment and the technology that lets us capture our ideas and present them without having to be masters of the keyboard.

When Spectrum was released, Cobham basically put the whole world on notice that a new voice was on the scene that would play whatever he wanted to play, however he wanted to play it. Cobham brought drum solos to a composition level inspired by Roach and Bellson, and then he took it many steps further, with sheer and unbridled power.

With no apologies.

And that’s the thing I have loved about Billy Cobham’s for over three decades. Like Tony Williams, who ushered in the true fusion of jazz and rock with his group, The Tony Williams Lifetime, Cobham had an aural vision and pursued it relentlessly. His particular focus was odd meter exploration, continuing the work he’d brought to life playing in the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Cobham made odd meters flow, and he did it like no other drummer before him. He didn’t use a click track, didn’t have Pro Tools to tidy it all up, and it was recorded on something called “tape,”  that suff you only see hanging in museum walls now…

His songs sounded ALIVE, like – no , they were – a live jazz performance. You listen to Spectrum today and it sounds like it’s happening in your living room, right NOW.

That’s the test of music for me. And the thing I REALLY love abut Cobham’s playing is the ferocity. If you’ve read some of my previous posts that reference Tourette Syndrome, you probably realize that drumming has been a tremendous source of therapy for me over the years. When I was  teenager, drumming was the only source of sanity I had. Billy Cobham’s playing was the thing that gave me permission to just UNLEASH the stuff inside and do so in a musical way.

A few years ago, I sent Billy this e-mail to extend my thanks for the inspiration he provided me during those tough teen years:
Dear Billy,

From the time I was 6 until I was 20, I lived with Tourette Syndrome
without knowing what it was. The uncontrollable body movements just about drove me insane, but music kept me on the right side of the fence. Your playing in particularly gave me a voice to model and aspire to, with your intense energy finding an outlet through jazz. I went after that as well,
exploring odd meters and unleashing the energy of Tourette’s on a
musical palette.

Today at 49, I still use the drums to express the now toned-down energy,
and it still keeps me sane. The control I acquired from drumming let me lead a medication-free life and even become a flight instructor. Teaching
in the Los Angeles area is every bit as intense as drumming, believe me.

But the show ain’t over yet, and I still have odd meter funk musical
plans. You have been my drumming inspiration since I was a kid, and I just
wanted to thank you for playing without compromise.

Sincerely,
David Aldridge
 Los Angeles, CA

His reply made my day and musical world:

Glad to be of some positive resource in your life.

Bill C.

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I decided to get back into music and pursue the explorations I’d started years ago because 1) I miss it  2) I think is music is a valuable therapeutic tool for Tourettes, and 3) the drums need to be taken a much higher level, both intellectually and compositionally

Billy Cobham lit the fire for me years ago, and as a drummers, I think we all have a duty to keep carrying that flame and pass the torch. In a little while, I’ll be putting up some videos of current explorations with odd meters and polyrhythms to keep pushing this thing.

Meanwhile, thanks for reading these posts. They inspire me to wake up some sleeping chops and rhythmic madness. I hope you’ll find the results to be equally inspiring, as I did with one drummer’s fearless album and voice a long time ago…