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CD/ALBUMBILLY COBHAM COLIN TOWNS HR BIG BAND MEETING OF THE SPIRITS

Seventy-four-plus minutes of live bliss, as Billy Cobham reprises his role powering the music of John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, this time with the marvelous Hessische Rundfunk Big Band. Arranger Colin Towns translates the fusion icon’s music in wonderfully creative ways, deploying distorted trumpet or woodwinds to cover guitar and violin leads, and spreading the polyrhythmic grooves out to chopping trombones or bass clarinet. Excellent arranging aside, the reason why this disc cooks so nicely is Cobham. The drummer tackles the funky 7/8 of “Cosmic Strut” and the 9/8 of “Birds of Fire” with an edge and ease that set the stage for the big licks to come. Cobham’s solos, on “Sanctuary” and throughout, are the confident, musical undertakings of a master. The famous power, speed, control, dynamics, and sense of tone and composition—it’s all there. (In And Out)

Robin Tolleson