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Billy Cobham: Blowin’ in the Crosswinds

He was (arguably) the definitive drummer of the fusion generation. Now Cobham is returning to some of his 1970s music—but don’t expect a retread.

Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham (photo: Nigel Dick)

“The complexity of playing simple” is what Billy Cobham calls that thing that happens when he sits down behind the drums. “How can I play simply in the most complex situations?”

Some who’ve watched him perform over the past five decades might be raising an eyebrow or two right now. If Billy Cobham’s drumming isn’t complex, whose is? At full throttle, he is ferocious; the noise he creates is thunderous, his limbs are a blur. Even in a quieter, more contemplative setting, he seems to be everywhere at once. His timing is off the charts, his ability to stay a step ahead and anticipate a coming change unmatched.

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Jeff Tamarkin

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Jeff Tamarkin is the former editor of Goldmine, CMJ, Relix, and Global Rhythm. As a writer he has contributed to the New York Daily News, JazzTimes, Boston Phoenix, Harp, Mojo, Newsday, Billboard, and many other publications. He is the author of the book Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane and has contributed to The Guinness Companion to Popular Music, All Music Guide, and several other encyclopedias. He has also served as a consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, NARAS, National Geographic Online, and Music Club Records.