Drumming up 40 years of support

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First Posted: 1/16/2013

68-year-old Billy Cobham is a drummer with a unique style that just keeps going – and going, and going. And for all the years he’s played, his music never stays the same, an ever-evolving sound that is heavily influenced by his surroundings, which, over the years, have been many.

Cobham will perform at Jim Thorpe’s Mauch Chunk Opera House on Jan. 18 as part of a tour that’s celebrating the 40th anniversary of his breakthrough album, Spectrum.

Cobham’s stylings are that of jazz fusion, a sound that blends element of jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, and funk. The Panama-born artist can remember being influenced by music from his early days.

Panama was warm and humid, and I was three years old and didn’t know much, but I do remember a lot of Afro-Caribbean music around my family, even at such a young age, he said in a recent Skype interview from Panama.

The music was also within his family: his father played piano, his mother was a singer, and his grandmother played guitar.

Panama was just the beginning of a life that would lead Cobham to not only visit several countries, but live in them as well.

His family moved to New York City when he was a child.

When I got to New York, I heard the same stuff as in Panama, generally, but it had a different tinge, an edge to it, he said.

The Big Apple wasn’t the place for him.

We lived in a very fast-moving environment, even in the late ‘40s. There’s an element to New York City that’s quite different that I could feel no place else. I found myself blanketed in it, and over time, because my personality is pretty laid back and passive, I tended to want to find an area where things moved slower.

So off to California he went, and then eventually he moved to Europe by accident, he joked, to Switzerland.

It would be quiet there for me. I really enjoyed the peace and stability of the region.

And so that’s where he resides today. Though he’s physically left the other places behind, the influences still creep into his music.

That’s why I feel I have a product that’s perpetually in demand, because of the fact that I do bring something unique to the table, he said. It’s got a base in America, but it’s looking at it from a completely different perspective.

For this show, Cobham will bring along a collection of musicians, featuring Jerry Goodman (violinist and former Mahavishnu bandmate), Dean Brown (guitar), Gary Husband (keyboards), and Ric Fierabracci (bass).

The ‘Spectrum 40 Tour’ represents the culmination of my ever-expanding, deepening lifetime journey of creative expression, Cobham said in a press release. I am so delighted to return to my roots in the U.S. to share the stage with such stellar musicians on this historic tour, to give audiences a special ‘Spectrum’ experience and above all, exuberantly celebrate the timeless, universal power of music.

Billy Cobham ‘Spectrum 40 Tour:’ Jan. 18, 8:30 p.m., Mauch Chunk Opera House, 14 W. Broadway, Jim Thorpe. $37. Info: www.mauchchunkoperahouse.com, 570.325.0249.