Billy Cobham: Stratus

Back in 1973, while still in the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Billy Cobham made a really wise business decision. He had some compositions he wanted played. Feeling they would be better appreciated outside of Mahavishnu, Billy gathered Jan Hammer and some other fine players and recorded one of fusion music's classic albums, Spectrum. Cobham's decision led to a very lucrative decade for him as the success of his first release laid the groundwork for several other well-received albums and tours.

The tune actually begins quite eerily with otherworldly synthesized sound effects. Cobham augments the electronics with a regimental drum solo. A short roll ends with a powerful accent that launches a deep- pocket groove powered by Lee Sklar's insistent bass. The piece has several impressive themes. But Sklar's repeated bass riff actually becomes the dominant force and the de facto melody. Hammer and Bolin take energetic turns trading-off over the bubbling cauldron of fusion funk. Of particular note, however, are the comping skills of both players. Cobham stays in a very deep pocket throughout. An uplifting unison riff, supported by a complex drum barrage, ends the tune.

"Stratus" became popular on radio, and pieces of it even found their way into television shows and commercials. To many Cobham fans, this performance is considered the apex of his solo career because it best combined his amazing drumming and compositional abilities. "Stratus" rightfully holds a place in the jazz-fusion pantheon.

February 12, 2008 · 3 comments


Previous Page | Next Page