Review Summary: Billy Cobham goes solo.
It's almost impossible to even begin discussing the genre of Jazz Fusion without mentioning the one artist that was practically responsible for the genre's fruition. I am of course referring to the sorcerer himself, Miles Davis. After releasing Nefertiti
, his final album composed under an all acoustic orchestration, Miles Davis began to experiment with electric instruments to create a whole new sound. An idea that was perhaps a reflection of the time, as we begun to see rock music eclipsing Jazz in both popularity and sales. It all started with Miles In The Sky
, but we didn't really see the fusion of Jazz and Rock becoming fully conscious until the latter albums like Bitches Brew
and In A Silent Way
. The music in these albums is very abstract, amalgamating the expansive and cosmic nature of Psychedelic rock with the enthusiasm for soloistic improvisations found in Jazz. Miles Davis would bequeath this brand new concept to his soul brothers; John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham, who also worked with him in several releases including one of his most famous albums, A Tribute To Jack Johnson
. An experience that would later develop into friendship and the formation of The Mahavishnu Orchestra.
is Billy Cobham's solo debut as a composer and he takes us through some rather familiar territory. The album is very reminiscent of both his past work with Miles Davis, though obviously much closer to the overly vigorous depiction of Jazz Fusion that The Mahavishnu Orchestra is renowned for. "Quadrant 4" starts off the album on a high note. Immediately, without hesitation or restrain, the music erupts with the passionate dexterity of it's musicians. Tommy Bolin and Billy Cobham have developed quite the synergy during the recording sessions, and it can be easily perceived by this performance alone. Billy Cobham sets up the rhythm with his frantic-paced drumming as Tommy Bolin bombards the listener with a barrage of guitar notes. And it isn't long until Spectrum
has us descending into realms of psychedelia. Though the psychedelic influence are only mild in this piece, there are numerous guitar effects and synthesizer decorations throughout Spectrum
that are very reflective of Miles' electric period, but even more reminiscent of Progressive rock. A lot of the content in this album seems to go back-and-forth between extensive solo work and quasi-spacial atmospheres. For example, the album's concluding section, "Snoopy's Search" and "Red Baron", begins with a moog synthesizer that induces a cosmic sound before descending into a more familiar Jazz orchestration.
The mood of this album is very versatile, containing moments of both delicacy and aggressiveness. "Stratus" is perhaps the album's highlight. The composition projects itself as a mellow track, emphasizing a Funk influenced groove but there are moments of elevation when Tommy Bolin's eruption of flourishing guitar arrangements completely take over. "Searching For The Right Door" is another exciting track but it induces a more jazzy vibe, due to the dominance the brass sections have over the other instruments. The compositions with a more relaxed tempo tend to favor a more Jazz influenced sound rather than Rock, "Le Lis" is an example of this. It begins with a piano solo referred to as "To The Women In My Life", and it's a fitting name because the music reflects a romantic tone. But as the intro fades, we find ourselves within a gentle realm. "Le Lis" has such a smooth texture with an almost Salsa-like rhythm that gives it a feeling of looseness, almost encouraging the listener to dance to it's melody. Spectrum
is a truly enjoyable album, and one I recommend to any admirer of Jazz Fusion. The musicianship in this album is intense, every member has truly developed a sensational synergy during the recording sessions. This is definitely one for any fan of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, as its sound will be sure to keep you intrigued right to the very end.