Cobham was the last of that trio to connect with Davis, but his first great impact was to come with The Mahavishnu Orchestra. While the group, led by guitarist John McLaughlin, only produced two studio albums, they were a major force in defining the fusion sound, and Cobham's huge sound and technical command were major factors in that definition. Even while working with Mahavishnu, Cobham signed with Atlantic records and began putting together the music for Spectrum, a showcase for his skills as a leader and a composer.
Spectrum would be the opening blast in the six year run as a leader for Atlantic that is chronicled on Rudiments: The Billy Cobham Anthology. Rudiments is an apt name for the collection, since Cobham has always blended an emotional ferocity with a technical proficiency that is the legacy of his musical education in youth drum corps and U.S. Army bands at Brooklyn's Military Ocean Terminal and Fort Dix, New Jersey.
As much as his power and proficiency as a drummer, Cobham's skill and development as a composer is displayed throughout this collection. Twenty of the twenty-four cuts are Cobham originals. Equally impressive is the range of artists for whom he would assume the role of leader. From the initial Spectrum lineup of Jan Hammer (keyboards), Tommy Bolin (guitar) and Lee Sklar (bass) to the his last Atlantic release, 1978's Inner Conflicts, with Dawili Gonga, AKA George Duke (keyboards), John Scofield (guitar) and John Williams (bass), Cobham's groups would include the talents of a roster that included John Abercombie, Cornell Dupree, Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, Tom Malone, Alfonso Johnson and others. The opportunity to hear the work of such a stellar collection of soloists and rhythm players is itself sufficient justification for this long overdue compilation.
Each of the seven Billy Cobham albums, as well as the Billy Cobham/George Duke Band's 1976 release, Live - On Tour In Europe, is represented on these two discs. In addition to the previously released material, there are outtakes form Spectrum ("All 4 One") and A Funky Thide Of Sings ("Neu Rock N' Roll") that will be essential for completists and satisfying for all.
Billy Cobham has continued as a major force in jazz performance, composing and education. Today, from his base in Switzerland, he maintains several performing and recording units scattered around the globe. In his fourth decade of making marvelous music, it's hard to remember a time when there wasn't a Billy Cobham. With Rudiments: The Billy Cobham Anthology, we're able to remember a time when the name was new, and the music was timeless.