And with the greatest of reverence and bravado they boast… “Yuh hear big band?”
Anyone remotely associated with Pan, Steel Orchestras, Panorama and the Caribbean understands the special meaning and emphasis of that phrase. And in the same vein one can’t help yelling “Yuh hear big band?” as we listen to this latest project “Broad Horizon.”
We will cut to the chase. Yes, you need to have your own personal copy. Yes, you will place it right next to Marley, Prince, Monk, Return to Forever, Biggie, Tupac, James Brown, Hendrix, Holst, Mighty Sparrow, Weather Report, Miles, Earth Wind and Fire. Yep, we’re talking game changer.
We are a sum of our experiences. At least musically speaking - so they say. And if this is true (and we definitely believe it to be so) - wait till you listen to “Broad Horizon” by drummer extraordinaire Billy Cobham - featuring Cobham and Frankfurt Radio Big Band. Simply outstanding. It’s going to leave you shaking your head and muttering - man-o man-o man-o Man! in complete enjoyment and ecstasy. The Frankfurt Radio Big Band is outstanding and Billy Cobham remains the master that he is.
It has been a few years since our last review of Billy Cobham’s project -- “Culturemix.” “Broad Horizon” was well worth the wait.
Often as we mature one can be heard saying “If I only knew then what I know now.” In this regard “Broad Horizon” is one of this legendary musician’s best works because he knows it now. Billy Cobham is no longer looking to be a Lamborghini moving at over 200 miles per hour just because he can. However, now he is a treasured musical gem and treasure-trove moving at whatever speed is needed to get the maximum impact and tell his story completely. He has been there, seen that, and done that - and more importantly he is “the man” in charge on this album. From the compositions to the performances to the production - it is all Bill Cobham.
It’s the kind of musical contact that makes you grab half of the headphone off your ear and stick it on your friend’s ear, screaming “Just listen to this!” - and like someone who’s grabbing too big a scoop or lick out of your favorite ice-cream cone/food, you grab it back in fear that it will not be the same or enough for you, if you are parted with it for any longer.
First of all, the songs were composed by Billy Cobham; you are truly living through him: his background, experiences, tastes, musical and life journeys. From Panama to Brooklyn to Switzerland it is all there - the sounds, the movements, and the smells. Yes, the smells, the music will bring you back to the “hood” and it will conjure up memories and visuals; you can even taste the foods associated with the musical movements as you remember them. Yes, the aroma of codfish cakes and bakes mixed with music from Panama, the Caribbean, Central America, Down South. Brooklyn funk and soul. For this writer, it’s Sunday and Mrs. Fradad is playing her Gregorian chants & classical music on the third floor, and Pappy is playing his Spanish music in the apartment across the hall, and Ms. Lightfoot is listening to her gospel music on the second floor. Mr. Bland is listening to his blues and there are Anglican hymns coming from the St. Augustine Church across the street, and Mr. Claude is enjoying his calypsos. Not to mention drum and bugle corp practice in PS 75’s school yard. Yes, we can relate personally. This is the Brooklyn we knew, a stone’s throw from where Billy Cobham grew up. The era in Brooklyn when drum and bugle corp ruled and you could experience music and culture from all parts of the world by simply walking down the block from one end to the other.
In a recent WST interview, Cobham speaks about the power of neighborhood musical influences and sounds that resonate with you for a lifetime. They are all here in “Broad Horizon.” Those sounds and ancient rhythms that so affected him as a child that he never forgot or left behind. And of course the steelpan instrument is one of them.
Billy Cobham has a distinctive style of writing and producing. It is potent, efficient, and effective -- everything is where it needs to be or should be. Never overstated or understated - but always present. His artful and strategic layering of the steelpan instrument (played by Wilbert “Junior” Gill) for example, within the tracks, is a constant reminder that ‘the child is the father of the man.’ An instrument and sound he encountered as a child continue to play a crucial role in the storytelling of Billy Cobham and his experience.
After you go through the certified geniuses and programs -- and you realize “There were geniuses around me all my life,” and also that genius emanates from within as you tell your story. A lesson taught to this writer, ironically, by another legendary drummer - Max Roach: the power in validation of oneself.
Conductor: Guy Barker All arrangements: Guy Barker
All compositions: Billy Cobham
Recorded May 6-8 2013, Hörfunkstudio II, Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt am Main
Produced by Bill Cobham & Hessiscber Rundfunk
Producer Frankfurt Radio Big Bond: Olaf Stötzler Recording Producer (Editing/Mixing): Axel Gutzler
Recording Engineer: Rainer Schwarz
Mastering: Fred Kevorkion, Kevorkian Mastering Inc, New York
This collection of music chapters is about after you have learned the lesson that genius and greatness lie within you - and always have been in the people around you... It shows the impact of those things that remain with you from childhood... Furthermore, it is a bit of Cobham yesterday, today, and blueprint for tomorrow.
There are eight tracks on this CD. We prefer to dub them ‘chapters’ in this interactive musical book of stories called “Broad Horizon.” We will forgo a technical or musical analysis of the collection. Been there, done that. Simply put: the recording is awesome, the production is awesome, the musicianship is awesome, the orchestration is awesome, the arranging and the song writing are awesome. Okay - you get the picture.
Our favorite track is “Panama.” Everyone is going to have different tracks which appeal to them in different ways. There are lots of unintended consequences from digesting this work of art - and it is all good.
Oh - and Billy still has the best tuned drums in town.
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