This month, as we delve into the music and drumming of 1978, we asked our readers and social media followers to name some of their favorite records from the entire decade. Here they weigh in on great ’70s jazz and fusion performances.
Mahavishnu Orchestra’s The Inner Mounting Flame  was a game changer. No one had heard drumming like that before. Billy Cobham played complex rhythms and mind-blowing fills with immense power in every time signature but 4/4. This album also introduced the drumming community to the pang cymbal that Cobham played upside down while employing his deft ambidexterity. Suddenly every drummer began using an upside-down China cymbal as result. Cobham launched fusion drumming, and everyone who followed used him as the template.
Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Birds of Fire  is an absolute masterpiece, from the Indian rhythms to the ridiculous chops. Billy Cobham lays down heavy grooves in several time signatures, plays with amazing dynamic range, and has the facility to change the feel instantly. Let’s not forget his groundbreaking use of double bass throughout the songs—not just during the solos—which had rarely been attempted previously and wasn’t matched or exceeded for maybe a decade afterward. This was truly ahead of its time.
Ryan Alexander Bloom
Herbie Hancock’s Thrust  was differ-ent from anything else I’d heard at the time. The grooves that Mike Clark and bassist Paul Jackson put down still inspire me.
Herbie Hancock’s Thrust. Mike Clark’s linear style inspires me every day to come up with phrases that go over the barline and linear grooves that start in different places.
One by Bob James . Steve Gadd and Idris Muhammad own the record and show off some fantastic chops. The song “Night on Bald Mountain” with Gadd is especially great. This is also the first jazz record I ever got into, thanks to my dad having it on vinyl when I was very young.
On Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow  Richard Bailey’s technique, wrist control, and offbeat patterns are groundbreaking. Some drummers play to the music. This music plays to the drums. Incredible drummer.
I couldn’t believe that it was possible to play the way the young Narada Michael Walden did on Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Visions of the Emerald Beyond . It was melodic, soft, hard, and always together with the other musicians, which created magic. It’s one of my favorite albums of the genre.
Believe It by the New Tony Williams Lifetime . Williams took his jazz heritage along with his love for rock and turned everything over again. He always played like no one else. The drum solo on “Mr. Spock” leaves me in awe every time I hear it.
Chick Corea’s The Leprechaun  is Steve Gadd’s finest hour by far. And not only Gadd but every member of the band performed an absolute blinder. It’s one of the few jazz-fusion albums of the ’70s that still sounds great today.
Alex Acuña’s playing on Weather Report’s Heavy Weather  was so fluent and elaborate, with killer fills and awesome chops without overplaying. He made such tasteful contributions to all the masterpieces on that album.
The Dixie Dregs’ What If  is an incredible album. Rod Morgenstein showed a wonderful command of dynamics, tempo, odd meters, and styles, and played some very creative drum parts and fills that do more than just fill up time. He used space within his fills to make them even more interesting without relying solely on speed or a barrage of 32nd notes.
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