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Billy Cobham Biography

William Cobham spent his first two years listening to his cousins play the textured rhythms of Panama as a child, before moving to New York around his third birthday. After graduating from New York’s prominent school of Music and Art, Cobham spent from 3 years in the U.S. Army Band, before landing a gig with the Horace Silver Band.

Cobham left the hard bop of Silver’s group to help form the jazz-rock group Dreams with the Brecker brothers before landing in Miles Davis’ legendary fusion ensemble. After playing on highly-influential Davis albums such as Bitches Brew and A Tribute to Jack Johnson, Cobham and fellow Davis alumni John McLaughlin walked away from Davis, forming the Mahavishnu Orchestra in an effort to play a more powerful brand of rock fusion.
Cobham left the group he helped create to form Spectrum, a group hoping to continue pushing the boundaries of fusion by adding the new funk sound that was becoming popular in the early 1970s. As the Seventies progressed, Cobham’s sound became more accessible to the mainstream, making him significant more commercially viable. Despite numerous successful albums as a leader, Cobham never relented in working as a sought after session drummer. Besides having been essentially the house drummer for the CTI label, Cobham toured with the Grateful Dead, recorded with Peter Gabriel, and worked as a member of the famed Saturday Night Live Band.

With his legacy in both the jazz and rock world secured, Cobham is indisputably one of the legends and shapers of the fusion movement. His powerful sound and uncanny timing contrasted his intricate solo work in a fashion that has made him an unparalleled percussionist to this day. Cobham remains an active member of the jazz world, touring relentlessly around the globe.
Louis Bellson Biography
Whether swinging with a big band or playing with a small, intimate quartet, Louis Bellson’s aptitude for impeccable timing, compositional skills, innovative sprit, and propensity towards vibrant soloing have made him one of the jazz world’s top drummers and a true rival to the legendary Buddy Rich.
Born Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni in 1924, Louis Bellson caught the attention of jazz icon Benny Goodman at seventeen years old after winning nationwide drumming competition, subsequently playing for Goodman for the year before heading into military service during World War II. Upon his homecoming, Bellson rejoined Goodman’s group before stints with Jazz at the Philharmonic, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington, who also let Bellson compose songs such as “Skin Deep.” It was also during his time with Ellington’s Orchestra that Bellson became the pioneer of the two bass drum kit.
After marrying singer and actress Pearl Bailey, he left Ellington and became his new wife’s musical director. During this same period, Bellson led a variety of side projects with many distinguished musicians, became an active lecturer and workshop leader on college campuses around the country, and continued to compose music, most notably songs such as “I Need Your Key,” for James Brown.
Still active in jazz education, Bellson has made an immeasurable impact in the music world. Whether playing drums on Ella Fitzgerald albums, or leading workshops on Illinois’ Louis Bellson Heritage Day, Louis Bellson is a true jazz original.