Billy Cobham: La Guernica


La Guernica


Billy Cobham (drums)


Magic/Simplicity of Expression (Jazz 2 on 1)

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Billy Cobham (drums), Alvin Batiste (clarinet),

Marvin Stamm, Mike Lawrence (trumpets), Wayne Andre, Alan Raph, George Quinn (trombones), Mark Soskin (keyboards), Charles Singleton, Ray Mouton, Steve Khan (guitars), Randy Jackson (bass), and others


Composed by Billy Cobham


Recorded: New York, released 1978


Rating: 81/100 (learn more)

"La Guernica" appears to have much to offer. In terms of live components, it features fine musicians Billy Cobham, Mark Soskin, Randy Jackson, Alvin Batiste and 3 guitarists, a horn and a string section. This is quite some undertaking. In its scope it measures up to and in some ways sounds like the larger version of Chick Corea's Return to Forever band that was operating concurrently. There is some heavy drumming, some good Batiste and an overall feeling of forward motion. But, alas, the piece is more form than substance. Too bad. Steve Khan is a superb guitarist. The liner notes say he plays acoustic guitar. If you can discern acoustic guitar in this piece, your hearing trumps mine. I detect some interesting chords on electric that sound a lot like Khan. But is it him? How can I tell guitarist Singleton from guitarist Mouton? It is all just too much. Cobham, Batiste, Soskin and Jackson all sound good together. But it is as if their best parts, and the best part of the tune, are really just stuck in the middle of a ramped-up Spanish groove of extraneous horns and strings that we have all heard a thousand times.

I don't want my ingrained disappointment in Cobham's new directions at that time to paint such a bleak picture. Amazing how it still bothers me 30 years later. But music is a very personal thing. The fact is any tune featuring musicians of this caliber is worth hearing. This is music above the normal standards. You just have to relax some of your other standards to appreciate it. I am happy to say that Cobham seems to have rediscovered his groove in recent years.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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  • 1 Patrick // Mar 01, 2009 at 04:46 PM
    Well Walter, I guess you would have to see them live to actually witness the magic happen. I can discern an acoustic guitar in the mix, but then again I guess it takes a trained ear to distinguish that. I do know, as I was evolved with Romantic Warrior and Billy's band of whom you speak so critical of. I get a bit tickled when I read reviews such as yours. Maybe we should leave the reviews to the real critics. Or at least to those true critics that understand this type of music well enough that they can only attempt to play it. LOL. That reminds me of a story about a woman that followed a pianist from recital to recital. To countries all around the world. An expensive undertaking. Until one evening after the concert she asked the page to give the artist a beautiful clutch of flowers. The woman was extended an invitation back stage. The pianist thanked the kind woman for the flowers, and introduced himself. She was so overtaken with respect and admiration for the man and said, "I'm so happy to finally meet you". "Well thank you" said the pianist. The woman then said, "I would give anything and do anything to be able to play like you". "No you wouldn't ". replied the artist. "Pardon me" said the woman. The Pianist looked at the woman and said. "You won't give of your time to practice, and you won't spend the money for lessons". " I practice daily, and my instructor travels with me when I'm on the road". I wonder if the woman continued to to travel, just to listen to the artists playing? I would rather doubt it. I also doubt if she spends her time and money at home practicing with lessons. Sometimes we say foolish things like the lady concerning sacrifices to play like a master. Other times we speak without thinking first, like the pianist. Oh, and Walter, if you would care to have a few pictures of me with the these awesome artists, it might be arranged. On the other hand I usually reserve these precious relics to actual fans who admire these great virtuosos. As a musician of 53 years, a recording engineer with over 800 projects to my credit and a recipient of the recording arts institute golden ears award I am very critical. I am hoping you can apply my little story to your repertoire of lessons learned. I would so love to hear you play my friend. You must be quite the accomplished musician yourself. Best Regards Patrick
  • 2 Walter Kolosky // Mar 08, 2009 at 09:03 PM
    Hi Patrick, Thanks for taking the time to comment. I wonder how long your post would be if I actually said I didn’t like the tune! An 81 is a “good, solid, credible performance” according to our rating scale. I also wonder if you have seen my other reviews of the same artist, numbering probably close to 50 or more, on before you made your comments. Since I am obviously the “woman fan” in your little parable, you must be the “piano player.” You are obviously a world famous maestro who knows “awesome” people and has the photos to back it up! Congratulations on winning that sound recording Golden Ears award. I can only say you would have to be an award winning listener to have heard that acoustic guitar! More power to you. (BTW, do you have a photo of that award you could post? I would like to hang it on my computer to remind me how insignificant my finalist nomination was for the ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound) Awards for Excellence truly was. I can aim higher and I will ;-)