Williams to utilize the Electronic Drum Controller made in 1968 by the Meazzi Drum Company in Milano, Italy while on concert tour with Horace Silver in Europe. He is one of the few Percussionists, specializing in the Jazz drum set to lead his own band. The award winning Cobham has custom designed trend setting acoustic and electronic drum sets and has endorsed products that he created and refined.
He has performed on hundreds of records with his own groups and with some of the music's most luminary artists, and his trademark - biggest, fastest, explosive drumming - has energized the international stages of concerts, symphonies, big bands, Broadway, festivals, television and video. He has been a teacher of his artistry, giving drum clinics, conducting workshops and symposiums throughout the world. His stylistic influence, which has literally created a category of music, is an outstanding part of the history of modern music.
Since 1980 Billy Cobham has been dividing his time between his home in Zurich and the United States where he lived in New York City and northern California until that time, underscoring his unique internationally influenced origins as a musician. Born 5/16/44 in Panama, surrounded by talented parents and a brother, Wayne (producer, horn player, midi specialist, writer), Billy's love for drums was kindled by his cousins who played and constructed steel drums and congas in Panama. Some of his earliest memories are of himself playing Timbales.
The Cobhams moved to New York City in 1947, when Billy was 3 years old. He had his stage debut in performance with his father at the age of 8. Cobham developed his seriously voracious appetite for drumming in the highly competitive Drum and Bugle Corps. arena with St. Catherine's Queensmen, prompting him to attend New York's famed High School of Music and Art to study music theory and drum technique with seminars by such renowned talents as Thelonious Monk and Stan Getz. Cobham remembers "In those days, Jazz was a bit off-limits to students while classical music was preferred by the education establishment. So, of course students craved to meet jazz artists.
Miles Davis was the most talked about personality of the time and had the best musicians working with him. "We'd listen to him and analyze, as we did with other professionals. But in those days, all roads did lead to Miles." He was the goal to shoot for because he had a knack for putting the right components together (musicians and music) to convey the ultimate message through Jazz.
EDUCATION Diploma 1962 - The High School of Music And Arts, New York, NY
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS 1965 to 1968 - United States Army Band as Percussionist
- Performed with Jazz Pianist Horace Silver in Europe and U.S.A. Performed with Jazz Saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and Organist, Shirley Scott, Recorded with Jazz Guitarist George Benson on the album Giblet Gravy for Verve records; Performed in the Broadway play "Promises, Promises".
- Began recording with Miles Davis; performed with Jazz Pianist Junior Mance; Recorded with jazz Pianist Les McCann for Atlantic records. Co-founder of the Fusion Group "Dreams" featuring Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, John Abercrombie, Don Grolnick, Barry Rodgers and Will Lee.
- 1973 Performed with John McLaughlin in Mahavishnu Orchestras with Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman and Rick Laird. During this period recorded as support musician on the CTI record label that feature such artists as Freddy Hubbard, George Benson, Milt Jackson, Stanley Turrentine, Esther Phillips, J.J. Johnson, Kenny Burrell, Eumir Deodato, Jackie and Roy, Johnny Hammond Smith, Bob James, Hubert Laws, Ron Carter and Eric Gale.
- Recorded "Spectrum" for ATLANTIC RECORDS with Tommy Bolin -gtr, Jan Hammer - Kys, Lee Sklar - E.Bs, Ron Carter - Ac. Bs, Jimmy Owens -tpt, Joe Farrell - Flute and Ray Barretto - Congas. Created his own musical organization, featuring Randy Brecker -tpt, Michael Brecker -sax, John Abercrombie -gtr, Alex Blake -bass, Milcho Leviev -kys, Lee Pastora -perc. and Glen Ferris -trb., while performing as musical support on recording projects with other internationally known artists such as those listed above and below. Recorded "Shabazz" Live at Montreux Jazz Festival.
- Recorded `Crosswinds" (Atlantic) and "Total Eclipse" - (Atlantic) with the same band as (1973). Recorded with Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack - "You've Got a Friend".
- Performed with band and recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland while on concert tour in Europe during the summer. Recorded `Life and Times" with George Duke, Doug Rash and John Scofield Recorded "Inner Contlicts" (Atlantic) with Jimmy Owens - tp, Julian Priester - trb, Ernie Watts -sx, John Scofield - gtr, Sheila Escovedo - perc., and John B. Williams - bs
- Performed on concert tour in the U.S.A and Europe with George Duke and recorded "Cobham/Duke Live" at the Montreux jazz Festival.
- Recorded "A Live Mother For Ya (CBS) with Alphonso Johnson, Tom Scott and Steve Kahn. Became official endorser of TAMA Drums through
Recorded "Magic" (CBS) which featured Pete and Sheila Escovedo. Recorded "Montreux Summit"(CBS) with Dexter Gordon, Benny Golson, Stan Getz, Eric Gale, Maynard Ferguson, Bobby Humphreys, George Duke, and Bob James.
- Performed and recorded with Alvin Batiste - clarinetist/Academian from Baton Rouge Louisiana. Recorded with Mike Manieri - Vibraharpist on "Simplicity of Expression/Depth of Field" (CBS). Recorded "Johnny McLaughlin - electric guitarist" with Jerry Goodman and Jan Hammer.
- Toured and recorded with Tony Williams in Japan at `live under the Sky" Jazz Festival. Recorded "B.C." (CBS) with Wayne Henderson and recorded with Louis Bellson "Matterhorn" (PABLO). Performed on concert tour with John McLaughlin, Jack Bruce, and Stu Goldberg in Europe. Performed at Montreux Jazz Festival with Oscar Peterson, Count Basie and Nils - Orsted Pedersen.
- Performed in house band of "Saturday Night Live" in New York City; Performed at Radio City Music Hall with the Gratetul Dead. Performed on concert tour with Jack Bruce and Friends.
- Performed on tour with Jack Bruce and Friends featuring: David Sancious - kys, Clem Clemson - gtr, Jack Bruce - bs. Recorded "Live at the Public theater' with Gil Evans Big Band. Recorded in Cologne, Germany "Flight Time" (INAKUSTIK) with Barry Finnerty - gtr, Don Grolnick - kys and Tim Landers -bs. Performed at the International Percussion Festival in Seattle, Washington with Tito Puente (Puerto Rico), Okuta Percussion (Nigeria), Zakir Hussain and Ala Rakka Kahn (India)
- Performed and recorded with Bobby and the Midnites featuring: Bob Weir - gtr, Bobby Corcoran - gtr, Alphonso Johnson - bs, and Brent Midland - kys. The Album called "Bobby and the Midnites" (ARISTA). Recorded Glass Menagerie "Observations &" (ELEKTRA)
- Performed with Gil Evans and Miles Davis in Japan. Toured Europe with Glass Menagerie featuring Dean Brown, Tim Landers, and Gil Goldstein.
- Co-produced `The World Of Rhythm" television special and live concert in Lugano, Switzerland, featuring Cheech and Chong, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Louis Bellson, Gil Evans, Bob Weir and Bobby and the Midnites Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker and "Glass Menagerie".
- Recorded "Warning" (GRP) Photographic exhibit of works at the Vincent Kling Architectural Galleries in Philadelphia. Performed in U.S.A with band.
- Recorded "Power Play" (GRP) and performed in the U.S. in concert extensively.
- Recorded "Picture This" (GRP) with Grover Washington and Ron Carter.
- Recorded with Peter Gabriel "Passion" soundtrack for Martin Scorcece film `The Last Temptation of Christ".
Performed in Isreal and Santiago, Chile with Jeff Berlin and T Lavitz. Toured with Joe Chindamo, Carl Orr, Adam Armstrong in Australia. Performed in Perth, Sydney, and Melbourne. Conducted clinic workshops there as well.
- Recorded "By Design" (FNAC) featuring Ernie Watts - sx, Brian Bromberg - bs, Joe Chindamo - kys: Performed at Playboy Jazz Festival - Hollywood Bowl and Playboy Jazz Festival in Tokyo, Japan.
- Performed with Larry Coryell, Donald Harrison and Dori Caymii in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, for Creed Taylor productions and Pioneer Laser Disc. Performed with Larry Coryell, Donald Harrison and Dori Caymii in Japan for Creed Taylor productions. Performed and recorded and produced at WOMAD Festival with Peter Gabriel and Okuta Percussion (Nigeria), and Farafina (Bourkino Faso). Traveled to Brazil and worked on a music project that involved the street children of Santos and San Vincentes and music.
- Performed in concert Recorded "Traveler' (FNAC) featuring Ira Coleman - bs, Gary Husband - synths and drums, Joe Chindamo - kys. This album is the end product of my experiences in Brazil the year before.
- Performed with Peter Gabriel in Europe, and U.S.A. on "US" TOUR, where he met the South African musicians Jeffrey Oryama and Lucky Dube and The Slaves. Performed and recorded with Stanley Clarke, Larry Carleton, Najee On summer concert tour the CD : "Live at the Greek" (EPIC)
- Toured Europe extensively with his band featuring Joe Chindamo-kybd , Gary Husband-kybd, Christian Diener - bs and Peter Wölpl - gtr. from September to December.
- Recorded and toured Norway with "Nordic" featuring Bugge Wesselfoft - piano, Ture Brunburg - ax and Terje Gewelt - bs.
- Performed and recorded live in Nassau, Bahamas with his band featuring Gary Husband, Carl Orr, and Stefan Rademacher at the Compass Point. Performed and recorded with Paradox - "The First Second to be released on the Enja label featuring "Wolfgang Schmid - bs and Bill Bickford - gtr. Recorded "Spaces Revisited" with guitarist Larry Coryell. Toured the U.S.A. and Europe with Larry Richard Bona - bs and Bireli Lagrene - gtr. Recorded Ensemble New - "Hope Street" for Rhymatix Records- his personal recording able and the next Nordic album ("Off Color") as well.
- Performed with JAZZ IS DEAD and recorded the c.d. "Blue Light Rain" (ZEBRA) - Performed and recorded in England and Scotland with my band featuring Randy Brecker - tpt, Gary Husband - kys, Stefan Rademacher - bs and Carl Orr - gtr. Performed in Istanbul, Turkey with Paradox. Performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival with George Duke and performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Tokyo with George Duke, Najee, Pieces Of A Dream, Angela Bofil, The Crusaders, Rochelle Farrell, and McCoy Tyner.
- Performed began development of the Conundrum book series and recorded with the London Jazz Orchestra.
- February:Performed and recorded with Nordic featuring Bugge Wesseltoft, Tore Brunburg and Terje Gewelt. Recorded with NorthbyNorthwest in Malmø Sweden.
March: Performed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with local jazz fusion musicians.
July: Performed with the London Jazz Orchestra throughout Europe in support of the Conundrum/Art of Jazz Multimedia project.
August: Attended the Baltic Drummer's meeting in Latvia with "Higher Ground".
September: Performed in concert with "Higher Ground" in Tiblisi, Georgia and conducted a clinic. October: performed in concert with NorthbyNorthwest in Europe.
November: Conducted a Performance Workshop at the Paris conservatory for Yamaha drums.
December: performed in Moscow with "Higher Ground".
- January: performed with Ron Carter, and Kenny Barron Naples, Oslo, Odense and La Spezia.
Performed in Moscow TV special
February: Performance Workshop with Nathan Davis, Jimmy Owens, Benny Golson, Patrice Rushen, James Moody, Herbie Mann, and Abraham LaBoriel in Florida.
Performed in Nizhny Novgorod, Moscow, Karkov-Ukraine and Novokuznetsk-Siberia with "Higher Ground".
March: performed with Paradox (Wolfgang Schmid and Bill Bickford) in Italy, Austria and Hungaria.
April: Recorded Drums and Voice with the Nicolosi Team.
May: performed in England with NorthbyNorthwest.
June: performances with the Art of 4 featuring Ron Carter, Donald Harrison, and James Williams.
July: performances with the Art of 4 featuring Ron Carter, Donald Harrison, and James Williams.
August: performances of Art of 4 in Eilat, Follonico and Cagliari.
September: performance with Igor Butman in Elba.
Recording with the Pianoless quintet featuring Guy Barker-trumpet, Igor Butman-saxophone, Per Gade-guitar and Chris Minh Doky-bass.
- In February and March: Billy performed with the Art of 3 in Europe.
In April of 2002, Billy Cobham performed 14 shows in the U.S. reprising material from hisdebut album, SPECTRUM.. Billy also performed with "Higher Ground" in a return to the German market. Higher Ground featured Jean Yves Jung-piano, Per Gade-guitar and Stefan Rademacher-bass. Billy also started performing and producing forWOMAD in May with the Caçeres Festival in Spain. From Spain Billy went back to the USA to conduct clinics for Yamaha.
June found Billy in Athens, Greece for the WOMAD festival there where he conducted performance workshops and performed with Asere, who hails from Cuba.
July was dedicated to the recording of the forth installment of the "Art of Jazz" multimedia project at Real World in Bath, England. This one is called the Art of 5 and features Guy Barker-trumpet, Donald Harrison-Saxophone, Eric Reed-piano and Orlando le Fleming-bass. The group had the opportunity to perform in Istanbul, Turkey, Bassano del Grappa, Gorizia and Matera, Italy.
Cobham's most notable offerings to fusion jazz are his own 35 recordings beginning with Spectrum, which was released on Atlantic Records in 1973 and reissued on compact disc by Rhino Entertainment in 2001 and also offered as a DVD-A audio disk. Amid the re-release of Spectrum, Cobham has several projects in the works including Drum + Voice (due via Sony) and a range of educational tools he produces through his own company, Creative Multi-Media Concepts. Among the resources is a book Conundrum, which is published by Warner Publishing, and a slew of Music Minus One interactive CDs which feature selections from Spectrum, where the individual instrument tracks can be muted, so that the musician/student can play along, in essence filling in for any key member of the London Jazz Orchestra with whom this project was recorded. The experience is one that Cobham describes as "accessible and yet challenging." Other titles in the interactive collection include North by Northwest which spotlights contributions by Scandinavian musicians, and the Art of Three, featuring Kenny Barron and Ron Carter in a mainstream jazz presentation. The trio tested this idea throughout Europe in 2001, which was greeted with success, and launched the follow-up project, Art of Four, with Carter returning and bringing in Donald Harrison and James Williams. The results of Cobham's tutorial role, under the umbrella that he calls The Art of Jazz.