Billy Cobham: The Pleasant Pheasant

Billy Cobham made a 90 turn after his highly successful Spectrum fusion album. When the follow-up Crosswinds was released it did not come close to garnering the critical praise or commercial success of his debut record. There were several reasons for this. First, for better or worse, Billy displayed far less muscularity behind the drum kit. Instead, he focused on atmospherics and texture. Second, there was considerably less rock component in the mix. He brought in the horns of the Brecker Brothers and Garnett Brown. The fine guitarist John Abercrombie was asked to play pieces that did not provide the wide-open outlet Cobham had given Tommy Bolin on Spectrum. George Duke was not Jan Hammer. The end result was an album that seemed to have only a couple of toes in the waters of the new and exciting jazz-rock ocean, and thus did not catch on with the rock side of the fan base. However, one tune from Crosswinds would have sounded right at home on Spectrum.

The "Pleasant Pheasant" is Latin-funk in nature and is propelled by an aggressive bass line riff from John Williams and rock-steady drumming. It allows Michael Brecker to really blow. Duke also stretches out on synthesizer. The horns play unison riffs over Pastora's conga rhythms. The simple but catchy theme is revisited often. At one point, Cobham plays a multifaceted rock solo on top of it. The tune fades out even as it gains energy.

"The Pleasant Pheasant" did not make Crosswinds into Spectrum. But Crosswinds had a certain jazz charm that has been unduly overlooked.

February 12, 2008 · 0 comments


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