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Billy Cobham - Life & Times CD (album) cover

LIFE & TIMES

Billy Cobham

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.82 | 15 ratings

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js (Easy Money)
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This album came out in 1976 when a lot of other fusion musicians had sold out and started producing "fuzak", but not Cobham. This album is just as innovative and energetic as anything that came out in the early 70s. For Cobham, this is a small band, but an extremely talented one. Doug Rauch and George Duke in particular are often overlooked and underrated players. Duke can hold his own with any of the 70s jazz greats like Corea and Hancock, and is a lot better at playing hard funk than they are. Duke is also better at manipulating the sounds on his synthesizer in real time. He displays a lot of knowledge and intuition on this difficult instrument. This album also shows off what a sophisticated writer and arranger Cobham was becoming.

Side one opens with some typical Cobham style high energy jazz rock. The song Life and Times features a complicated melody similar to Zappa or Corea and 29 is driven by a rapid montuno like figure from Duke. On Siesta things change up a bit. This song is a sophisticated jazz ballad with unusual twists and turns and features a small chamber quintet. The mini-orchestral arrangements on this tune are somewhat similar to Gil Evans or 60s Hancock. Finally the side closes with a tribute to Oakland CA called East Bay. This song is hard and funky like the tough blue collar city it is dedicated to. George Duke plays a great Fender Rhodes solo on this one.

Side two opens with more high energy fusion, this time with a melody similar to Cobham's days with Mahavishnu. After this comes another change of pace with a really nice ballad called Song for a Friend. This song is a beautiful piece of spacey lounge jazz that features excellent relaxed solos from Duke and Schofield. It has an almost ambient texture similar to some of Eno's work and would have made a great selection for a 90s acid jazz DJ to play. Cobham brings back the funk on On a Natural High and closes out the album peacefully with a reprise of For a Friend, this time with a longer solo from Schofield.

If you like 70s jazz fusion, it doesn't get much better than this.

js (Easy Money) | 4/5 |

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