Billy Cobham And Culturemix
Jazz Iridium in New York
Why Billy Cobham's
Culturemix has been part of the New York Iridium Jazz Club's
tenth-anniversary celebration is clear.
Like Iridium, Cobham continues to blaze an awesome musical trail that
ranges from jazz to funk to R&B to rock and anything else that you can
move to. With two previous appearances at the club, it was like
another "coming home" session to claim his crown once again. The diversity
of the Culturemix combination is analogous to Iridium's own
changing and staying in step with the times.
From the first insistent thumps of Cobham's drums, the audience was
hooked as they leaned into what would be one hour of mesmerizing
performances from each member of Culturemix. They were enthused
from the first selection and lapped up every single note of Cobham's crew.
The packed house at the Iridium erupted in applause as the first selection
came to a close.
The initial crew on
stage comprised solely Culturemix,
joined not too long into the set by Airto
winner Randy Brecker on
trumpet. Core Culturemix membership included Marcos Ubeda on
keyboards, whose composition Volcano had the audience smoldering at
the band's delivery. Per Gade on guitar and Stefan Rademacher on
bass each took the crowd through solo scenarios which had them showing
their appreciation vocally and through applause. Brecker of course
was a crowd favorite, and his entire deliberately nonchalant, but skilled
trumpeting, especially on his personal piece called Shanghai, sent
each Iridium club-goer into their own personal ecstasy.
Airto Moreira joined Culturemix on stage and tantalized the crowd
with his wide range of hypnotic percussion playing, while his
call-and-response technique invoked the African-Brazilian traditions. His
ability to both vocally reproduce and create a multitude of sound, and his
duet with Billy on the traditional "big drums", reminded all present that
Airto is a well-established recording artist in his own right, and are
reminders that his own shows are events not be missed! The legendary
Cobham on drums was the clincher. He gave the crowd what they
craved, lavish drum lines which alternately spread and teased at just the
right times, then majestically commanded attention and the spotlight when
adoring fans yelled in homage "Billy!"
Featured in Culturemix
is Zurich-based steel pannist
Gill who hails originally from England. He also alternates
masterfully on light
throughout. From the opening selection where Gill on pan was featured in
the opening riffs, to the unique pan jazz/funk/rock fusion which he
facilitated throughout the set, all eyes and ears of those present took in
the riveting sound of pan. For some, this is still an instrument
that is not too familiar in this genre. Cobham's inclusion of the
pan in his mix is an effective, well-thought out combination which
highlights the power of the Pan Jazz/funk genre, especially when there is
an aligning of the "drums" - Billy Cobham on traditional drum kit, and
Junior Gill on the pan or steel “drum.”
Cobham's strategic alliance with Gill came about some four-five years ago,
when they gigged together at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Gill did a
call-and-response with Cobham on drums, who liked what he heard.
About one year later in Freiburg, Germany, Gill joined Cobham and his
band. That began the start of a musical association which is still
going strong. Culturemix is just one of Cobham's many musical
projects, and when he is off touring with his other bands around the
world, Gill runs his own music center in Switzerland which has been around
for the past seven years -
Music Center Affoltern.
When asked about how he felt
about that first "session" with Cobham, Junior Gill confessed that he had
been "scared." That obviously
did not diminish his playing skills, as the melodic reciprocation between
Gill and Cobham is music to the ears.
himself is no stranger to the pan instrument, letting
When Steel Talks
know in a brief chat, that he had been mesmerized by the instrument as
young as two years old in his native Panama. His family in the
1940's made and played pans all around him, and those experiences never
When the first of the
night’s two sets was over, several delighted Billy Cobham devotees did not
leave without picking up signed copies of Culturemix's latest CD
called COLOURS. The ten-selection CD showcases many of the set’s featured
selections such as Volcano, Where Do We Go From Here and
lovers congratulated all the performers they could garner a few moments
with then coalesced around their personal band favorites, not missing the
opportunity to grab a couple personal photos with them.
The Iridium continues to be a trendsetter catering to the Jazz genre and
all its contributing musical influences, and the club’s acoustics are
first-rate. Considered one of the top jazz clubs in the world, it is an
experience not to be missed when visiting what is arguably the greatest
city of the world, New York.
Cobham’s Culturemix sparkled nightly at the Iridium from October
Pan is in
the "genes", as Junior Gill is second cousin to another pan player who
also gets around the world - Robert Greenidge. Even though they have
never played together, they have chatted on occasions.
Passion started when as an eleven-year old math whiz in West London, he
learned to play from the pannists in a then-appearing Grenadian steelband
called the Kickstars.
never taken part in a Trinidad and Tobago National Panorama, but in
1990 he arranged the "Bomb Tune" for the Arima Melodians. The stint
was made possible through the intervention of the UK's BT Melodians' Terry
Noel. He has also arranged for at least two Swiss steelbands:
Bollito Misto and Kool Kats Youth Steelband.
Four years later - 1994 found him in Trinidad again, this time
as a participant in the Steelband Music Festival, where as the Swiss
entrant, he place 10th in the solo competition. He
jokingly remembers that "they referred to him by his real name -
Wilbert!" Whether he is called Junior or Wilbert, his skill set is never in
dispute, and he continues to be yet another luminary in the world of