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Legendary Drummer Billy Cobham Plays Solos Like He Was 50 Years Younger – Jazzmeia Horn Casts a Spell With Scat

Legendary Drummer Billy Cobham Plays Solos Like He Was 50 Years Younger – Jazzmeia Horn Casts a Spell With Scat

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Billy Cobham playing at the Savoy Theater in Helsinki on March 8, 2019. Picture: Tony Öhberg

He’s still got it.

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Billy Cobham, 74. One of the greatest drummers of our times.

At the Savoy JAZZFest, Cobham enchanted the audience of the Savoy Theater in Helsinki with his ensemble consisting of other older musicians.

The festival, first of its kind, and which took over last weekend, was perfect for the old, historical venue that has provided entertainment since 1937 and is located next to the Esplanade Park.

On Friday night, during Cobham’s set, there weren’t many empty seats left.

Cobham, who has visited Finland before, but who I was honored to observe live for the first time, focused on songs from his two first albums.

He opened with the eponymous song from his second album Crosswinds from 1974. The song has a lazy funky feel to warm up the audience, and after the warm-up it was time for the first sprint, a fast, funky bravado: “The Pleasant Pheasant.”

Then they spaced out with “Savannah the Serene.”

At times during the set, Cobham zoned out in a bit of a careless state, hitting the cymbals, toms and the snare with very loose wrists. It quickly became clear that it was part of his panache. He flipped styles constantly, and that’s surely one of the reasons he is known as a master of fusion.

The group really lightened up the audience with “Stratus” from Cobham’s debut Spectrum (1973), and the crowd, north of middle age, started tapping their feet in unison with the catchy rhythm and heavy bassline. The younger members of the audience may have recognized the bassline in trip-hop group Massive Attack’s sample in “Safe from Harm.”

Cobham gave a massive attack on the drums with a thundering solo that was definitely one of the highlights of the evening.

Cobham praising the audience. Keyboard player Scott Tibbs is wiping sweat. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

”It’s so rare that I get to the few cities that I have a personal relationship,” Cobham said between songs. “To be in Savoy. Wow! We made it.”

Pudu. Pumm. Thwack! Soon, another drum solo was rolling at the beginning of one of his rarer songs “Conundrum” that was actually released in 2002 on a CD for drummers along with a notation guide.

For many drummers, it took many sweaty sessions to get the solos sounding slightly right.

At Savoy, Cobham nailed the tune with perfection, like he was 50 years younger.

Jazzmeia Horn studied in the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. In 2015, she won the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition.

On Saturday, it was time for Jazzmeia Horn, 27, to deliver an enchanting session of scat singing, vocal soloing—a difficult skill to master.

Horn deputed in 2017 with her praised album A Social Call but at Savoy, the audience was not treated to many of the songs from the collection.

Instead, Horn turned her vocal cords into a rapid-fire instrument, hitting low, middle and high notes with “Dududududadidididi, lalalala, uuuuuuu!”

She was the leading instrument in the technically brilliant band consisting of Victor Gould (piano), Ben Williams (bass) and Anwar Marshal (drums).

At Savoy, Horn was all about enchanting the audience with scat.

Horn improvised one of her idol’s, the late Betty Carter’s “Please Do Something” into a lightning speed scat song; for one to give a good feel for her talent and on the other hand in respect to Carter, considered the most adventurous female jazz singer of our times.

Somewhere in the middle of her show, which lasted about one hour thirty minutes, Horn said that she was going to perform one of the most played songs on the American radio, “A Timeless Place (The Peacocks).

Then it began: the piano melody.

Horn’s voice turned into whipped cream over the pancake and jam of the piano. It was delicious and served fresh!

Thunderous applauds followed, and the audience was still licking their lips when they left the theater.

About The Author

Tony Öhberg

The founder. Reporter and photojournalist. Salesman. Fluent in three languages. Pushing a career in journalism spanning two decades. Always looking for opportunities to tell another story.

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