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Billy Cobham - Crosswinds CD (album) cover


Billy Cobham


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.75 | 92 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars While his exhilarating, edgy "Spectrum" LP is a dazzling jazz rock/fusion tour de force, this album is more of a visit to Billy Cobham's roots in that it puts less emphasis on the driving, thunderous rock beats that characterized its predecessor and leans more toward traditional jazz colorings. Now that he had cultivated and established a solid fan base he felt would loyally support his music, Billy reunited with his old "Dreams" bandmates, Randy and Michael Brecker, to make a record that showcased the other angles and aspects of his composing ability. The result is "Crosswinds," a slightly uneven effort that contains some outstanding music nonetheless.

The first seventeen minutes is a bold four-part suite called "Spanish Moss - 'A Sound Portrait.'" With the sound of a howling wind and the tolling of distant mission bells wafting in and out between the segments, it's an enjoyable but unremarkable journey through nostalgic phases of Cobham's musical heritage. "Spanish Moss" is a sort of big band horn section piece that doesn't really spring to life until Lee Pastora flies into a hot percussion frenzy toward the end that is top drawer. "Savanna the Serene" is next and it's a smooth, laid back song that features Garnett Brown performing some very peaceful, understated trombone work as George Duke floats around him on the Rhodes piano. "Storm" is an impressive, flange-enhanced drum solo from Billy that leads into "Flash Flood," the uptempo finale to this would-be epic that allows Randy Brecker's blazing trumpet and John Abercrombie's too-timid guitar to take the spotlight. Pay special attention to Cobham and Pastora (along with bassist John Williams) as they lay down a squeaky-clean track underneath it all despite the odd time signature. Amazing stuff.

"The Pleasant Pheasant" is more along the lines of what we heard on "Spectrum." It's a toe-tapping, energetic tune where Michael Brecker throws down a superb saxophone solo and Duke follows it with an equally electrifying synthesizer ride. Billy's drumming is spectacular, as well, but when Abercrombie injects his jazzy guitar stylings into the fray you'll find yourself missing former axe man Tommy Bolin's fire and sassy attitude. (That's not a knock on John as much as it's a respectful acknowledgement of just how good Bolin was in his prime.) Next up is the drop-dead gorgeous "Heather," the apex of the album and one of my all-time Cobham favorites. Based on a single undulating synthesizer note, the song's beautiful ambience transcends the mundane and rises to a heavenly plane of existence. Michael's soothing sax and George's delicate Rhodes performances achieve a utopian groove and, if you allow yourself to succumb to its simple enchantment, the worries and stress of this world will seep right out of you long before the song ends. It's like a mental massage and it works for me every time. "Crosswind" ends the album on a positive note with its happy, funky melody and feel joyfully pulling you back into your body. Here Abercrombie takes the whole solo and he goes a long way toward redeeming himself, generating a lot more zip in his guitar shredding this time around. Once again, the rhythm section is tight as a damp cork in a bottle of vintage wine.

While this recording (and many others, for that matter) doesn't hold a candle to Billy's oft-referenced dynamic and thrilling solo debut, the progressive aura and sublime tranquility of "Heather" is worth the price alone. It's that good. If not for the underwhelming suite that begins the album this could have possibly rivaled his best ever. Still, this is the combined creative effort of a stellar list of extraordinary musicians and that makes it more than worth your while, to say the least. 3.7 stars.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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