July 2010

Billy Cobham's "Palindrome"

Perhaps the most incredible drummer of our time is the world renown Billy Cobham. With a career spanning 4 decades, Cobham has performed with pianists Horace Silver and George Duke, legendary trumpeter Miles Davis, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, vibraphonist Milt Holland and jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, to name but a few. Cobham has also performed with the Grateful Dead and their tribute group, "Jazz is Dead", with the famed Peter Gabriel, Level 42 and many, many more. An inductee into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, Cobham is best known primarily for his jazz-rock drumming. Cobham’s latest release, “Palindrome” on the Multimedia Concepts label, is a return to those roots.

Percussionist, writer and educator Reid J. Kennedy reviewed Palindrome last January for the Jazz Police. It so closely echoed my own view of this album, that it bears quoting here. Kennedy writes, “The album opens with an updated arrangement of Cobham’s “Moon Germs,” originally released in 1975 on the Total Eclipse record. With its funky bassline, solid pocket, and tight horn lines, this track is a suitable microcosm for a majority of the album. “Moon Germs’” use of guitar and keyboard riffs is another common thread within Cobham’s arrangements. “Two For Juan,” revisited from 1987’s Picture This, opens with a driving theme played over the drummer’s relentless backbeat. The combination of instrumentation and melodic material produce a theme suitable for an action sequence on Miami Vice.

The tune takes a different direction as keyboardist Christophe Cravero and trombonist Marshall Gilkes take turns blowing over an interlude prior to the return of the initial groove and guitar solo. A mountain climb toward the original theme ensues, not complete without some space for Cobham. “Obliquely Speaking” is one of five new compositions on the album, though it bares multiple similarities to “Two For Juan.” The use of steel pan adds a tropical flavor to this track.

By the fourth tune, “Isle of Skye,” the ensemble sound is firmly in place. Listeners know what to expect at this point, and those in search of groove-oriented music with a Latin tinge will not be disappointed. This second new composition on Palindrome offers a few calming moments when the music breathes a relaxing sigh. “A Day’s Grace,” from 1981’s Flight Time, begins softly before giving way to the straight-eight feel that propels the tune. Guitar, keyboard, and violin all receive solo space before the melody returns. Percussionist Marco Lobo adds some tasteful rhythms to the conclusion. Riff-based “Mirage” is reminiscent of the Dave Weckl Band with shades of Dave Holland with Billy Kilson, and even recordings of Michel Camilo. It was originally recorded on the Focused album in 1997.

A close listen to “Cancun Market” reveals the level of intricacy that encompasses many of the melodies Cobham composes. Nearly two minutes of syncopated rhythms comprise the head and give way to a steel pan solo played by Wilbert “Junior” Gill from Cobham’s “Culturemix” band. Guitar and keyboard solos follow thereafter, prior to the head out. “Torpedo Flo” is in six and morphs through a variety of grooves and feels in that time signature.

Trombonist Gilkes returns for a tasteful ride over Cobham’s relaxed, pseudo-samba feel that continues during the keyboard solo, as well. “Alfa Waves,” originally from 1995’s The Traveler, is a samba in three and features the “string” section of the group. Bassist Philippe Chayeb, who is solid throughout the entire album, opens the blowing and is followed by violin and guitar solos. It should be noted that the violin parts are played by keyboardist Cravero. Interestingly, this tune is placed directly after the only other tune in three (or six) on the record. “Saippuakivikauppias,” the palindrome song, concludes the album. The catch here is that, like the title, the tune is the same forward and backward.”

All in all, Palindrome is a softer Cobham album and as Kennedy noted, many of the songs are from Cobham’s thirty year catalogue. I recognized many of the strains from Cobham’s earlier albums, particularly “Total Eclipse”, “Life and Times” and “Inner Conflicts”. For me, Palindrome combines all of the elements of Cobham’s rich musical past, from the ‘70s era of the Brecker Brothers to the Culturemix band of 2003 with Junior Gill.

Kennedy rightly concluded, “Cobham’s Palindrome looks into the past while moving forward with contemporary ideas. There is no denying the drummer’s ability to play in the pocket, and with this release, he has made clear his musical preferences as they stand in 2010.”

The 2010 Outsound New Music Summit

Outsound Presents, the home grown artist nonprofit collective of the Bay-Area returns July 18th - 24th for the 9th Annual Outsound New Music Summit, one of the most comprehensive experimental music festivals on the West Coast with another unique roster of talent. The festival seeks to build on its reputation for diverse and critically-acclaimed performances with headliners that run the gamut from the films of Martha Colburn, multi-phonic drummer Alex Cline, the siren voices of Amy X Neuburg to the unabashed performance noise of Chen Santa Maria.

Every summer since 2002, the New Music Summit spends a week in July showcasing some of the most innovative and pioneering new music that is happening in California and beyond. At first a celebration of the eclectic vanguard artists on the DIY Edgetone Records Label, the Summit now features a broad range of artists from across the US, Europe, Australia and Japan. It features world premieres and exclusive debuts, raging free improvisers to microtonal composition to experimental electronics to harsh noise, reflecting an incredible range of genre busting exploration and sonic creativity. The Summit promotes intermedia, fostering cross-pollination between disciplines of music, sound art, visual and media arts. It is committed to bringing highly innovative music and art to a growing audience seeking a new experience.

The 9th Annual Outsound New Music Summit takes place July 18th through the 24th at the San Francisco Community Music Center, the Summit’s home for the past three years. The festival schedule includes the much anticipated yearly Touch the Gear tm, a free hands-on expo Sunday July 18th where attendees can experience new sounds and the devices that make them. A build your own cardboard synthesizer (Skatchbox) demonstration Monday July 19th with grandmaster instrument builder Tom Nunn, pre-concert artist talks, and four nights of music featuring a diverse lineup of artists.

The schedule includes a rare collaboration between Los Angeles iconoclast drummer Alex Cline and former Shadowfax ‘extended technique’ and ‘frequency manipulation’ guitarist G.E. Stinson. Performance vocal art by the Cornelius Cardew Choir, Amy X Neuburg, and “spoetry” (spam poetry) from Reconnaissance fly. The program also includes a full night of experimental films by musician conceptual artist Martha Colburn with music by pianist Thollem Mcdonas, and the internationally-exhibited 2009 60X60 Film Mix from Voxnovis featuring sixty local and international composers to film by Patrick Liddell in sixty minuets.

The mission of Outsound Presents is to raise public awareness of avant-garde and experimental music and sound art. All events and works supported by the organization focus on the creation of experimental music, avant-garde musical composition, found sound, improvisation, creative music, new music, noise, musique concrète, minimalism, invented instruments, genre-bending music, and sound that is sculptural or textural in nature. Outsound Presents events also include film, dance, and intermedia works. Through its two year around music series, its fledgling community education program OutSpoken, and a palette of artist services, Outsound Presents connects audiences to new work and the innovative artists creating it.


Sunday July 18: Touch the Gear
Ever wanted a closer look at the gear on stage? Wish you could try it yourself? Touch the Gear is Outsound’s free public OutSpoken event that allows audiences to roam among over 25 artists and their sonic inventions, asking questions, making noise and learning how these often one-of-a-kind set-ups work. It’s a hands-on, family-friendly environment that demystifies the technology while inspiring creativity. 7-10 pm

Monday July 19: How to build a Skatchbox - Demonstration
At this OutSpoken event participants will lean how to build their very own experimental musical instrument from a cardboard box. Inventor Tom Nunn will explain the techniques and demonstrate the processes used. 7-9pm

Wednesday July 21: Blurred Lines
Experimental films by Martha Colburn, with a live score by Thollem Mcdonas. Also, the internationally- exhibited 2009 60X60 Film Mix from Voxnovis.com, featuring sixty local and international composers to sixty one-minute films by Patrick Liddell.

Thursday July 22: Sound in a Blink
a night of free improvisational music with Hunt/Allen/Orr (featuring Joshua Allen, Timothy Orr, & Randy Hunt). Also, Emily Hay /Motoko Honda duo - and to top it off, legendary drummer Alex Cline with guitarist G.E. Stinson.

Friday July 23: MultiVox
A night of performances infused by voice and performance art with Reconnaissance Fly, the Cornelius Cardew Choir, and Amy X Neuburg.

Saturday July 24: Soundscapes
A night of sculpted noise art with phog masheeen, Headboggle, Kadet Khune, and Chen Santa Maria.

The 9th Annual Outsound New Music Summit
July 18 - 19 Free public events start at 7pm July 21 - 24
Artist Q&A: 7:30pm Music Performances start: 8:15pm
San Francisco Community Music Center 544 Capp Street (between 20th and 21st Streets) San Francisco, California
All Ages | Wheelchair Accessible July 21-24: $12 General ($10 advance) / $8 Student Festival Pass $45 ($40 advance)
Advance general tickets at In Ticketing http://www.inticketing.com/evinfo.php?eventid=97125