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Interview:
Jazz Drummer Recalls "Spectrum" Of Past Work
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Thirty-five years ago, jazz fusion drummer Billy Cobham stepped out of Mahavishnu Orchestra and released his first solo album, the acclaimed “Spectrum.” But he says he hasn’t felt the passage of time.

“Only when it’s brought up that it’s been this long — like when somebody says, ‘You know, it’s been 35 years since ‘Spectrum.’ ‘Really? I thought we just recorded that this week ...,’ “notes Cobham, 64, who resides in both New York and Switzerland these days “Then I start to think about all this stuff and little pictures go by in your mind, like snapshots of days and months and years, things that have happened along the way.

“Then you throw in people who were around at the time who are no longer around and you start to realize, ‘Good lord, it has been a long time ...’”

Cobham prefers not to look backwards, however, and he has plenty of work on the horizon. He released a new album, “Fruit From the Loom,” earlier this year and has been delving into film music, most recently the score for “Sonic Mirror” which will premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival in northern California in October. And Cobham’s pet project is taking Mahavishnu Orchestra’s music and adapting it for symphony orchestras, which he first did earlier this year in Australia and plans to continue in the spring of 2009.

“We performed with 100 pieces on stage, with 60 strings playing” guitarist John McLaughlin’s parts, Cobham recalls. “It turned out to be a lot of fun, and it’s really not as difficult as it appears. It’s all about how you organize everything.

“The fusion era does really lend itself to the symphonic environment. I think it would be a great page to turn for pops orchestras around the world to do things like that, playing the music of XYZ or Chick Corea or Herbie Hancock — not Herbie Hancock playing Gershwin but the music of Herbie Hancock. (Symphonies) are a great way to hear this music.”



Billy Cobham performs at 8 and 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept. 9-10) at the Jazz Cafe at Music Hall, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $35. Call (313) 887-8500 or visit www.jazzcafedetroit.com.

Web Site: www.jazzcafedetroit.com

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