After drumming in the jazz-rock group Dreams, that included trumpeter Randy Brecker, saxophonist Michael Brecker and guitarist John Abercrombie, and a brief stint with Miles Davis, Billy Cobham (1944) joined John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra (1971-73) and his drumming maelstroms soon became one of the most characteristic elements of their sound.
After parting with McLaughlin, Cobham formed Spectrum, one of the premier groups of jazz, funk and rock fusion.
Spectrum (may 1973), featuring a quartet with keyboardist Jan Hammer, heavy-metal guitarist Tommy Bolin and electric bassist Lee Sklar, upped the ante of fusion jazz with incendiary jams such as Stratus.
Crosswinds (august 1973) featured his old fellow Dreams members Abercrombie, Randy Brecker and Michael Brecker, plus keyboardist George Duke, trombone and bass and Latin percussion. It contained the 17-minute four-movement suite Spanish Moss, that proved Cobham was also a sophisticated composer.
Total Eclipse (1974) featured a similar line-up in extended (the suite Solarization, the ten-minute Sea Of Tranquillity) as well as concise (the catchy Moon Germs) pieces that relied more on group interplay than on individual bombastic playing.
The live Shabazz (july 1974) added two lengthy jams, Shabazz and Tenth Pin. While not even remotely subtle, the sound was becoming more cerebral and introspective.
With John Scofield replacing Abercrombie, the sound suddenly veered towards
danceable funk music, with a horn section and grotesquely derivative grooves.
A Funky Thide Of Sings (1975) and
Life and Times (1976) were utterly dispostable.
Inner Conflicts (1977) successfully intergrated electronic drumming in
After a decade of disco music, Cobham regained a bit of dignity with
Incoming (1989), that contained his first significant compositions
since 1974, Labyrinth and Rhyth-Ma-Tix,
with The Traveler (november 1993), containing Mushi Creole Blues,
with Focused (march 1998), containing Mirage.