Re: Billy Cobham
i found out about billy cobham through my parents. when i discovered the dillinger escape plan, i made them listen to some of calculating infinity, and my dad said, "that sounds a lot like mahavishnu orchestra." i had recently started playing drums, so they told me to go listen to billy cobham if i wanted to hear something great to try and imitate and learn from.
i had the pleasure of seeing him give a clinic at an H&H in Houston a little over a year ago. yes, his playing is just as strong as it ever was. he played along to a couple of tracks from conundrum, then played a solo for about a half hour, then fielded questions until someone asked him when we'd get to hear him play again (it was a middle-aged woman who asked; she was kinda hitting on him, making some innuendo about his sticks). then he played another solo for an indeterminable period of time (i guess i could have looked at a clock, but i didn't, and the way his playing messed with my attention left me with no concept of time passing; it could very well have been a year or five seconds for all i know) and fielded more questions afterward. at one point he was playing with 4-sticks, two in each hand. didn't seem like a technique that he'd developed very well, but i like what that says about his tendency to try and work out new things in front of an audience.
i asked him what he thought of the influence of electronic music styles and electronic musicians on modern jazz, and he started his answer with something along the lines of, "well, that [electronic influence] is the future of music..." then he told a story about a student he met at a clinic at some music school somewhere who had made some type of electronic drum pad/sample manipulator thing of his own design out of a cardboard box, and his teachers wanted to flunk him for it. Billy thought it was pretty innovative though, because here was this kid with so much sound potential sitting on his lap, while, and i quote, "...someone like Terry Bozzio needs a tractor trailer to haul his drumset."
another memorable quote: "drums...aren't necessarily meant to be played loud."
another one: "the thing that you have to keep in mind about electronic drums is that, [short pause], they're not drums."
the next day his band Culture Mix was playing at a Houston community college, and i caught that, too. while of course Billy's playing was tremendous, the real standout of the night in my mind was Junior Gill on steel drum and other random percussion stuff. I think it's his playing that gives their sound it's specific flavor. another memory: their guitarist, i forget his name, had some seriously fancy pants on. no joke. good playing though.