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Billy Cobham & Asere De Cuba Y De Panama Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

A highly enjoyable debut.

Colin Buttimer 2008

Born in 1944 in Panama, Billy Cobham first gained fame for his contributions to Miles Davis' electric jazz albums in the first half of the 1970s, most notably on A Tribute To Jack Johnson, Bitches Brew and Live Evil. From there he became the percussive powerhouse that drove the Mahavishnu Orchestra. His first solo album, Spectrum still stands as a brilliant meeting of jazz, funk and rock, part of it sampled very clearly by Massive Attack for the opening track of their debut, Blue Lines.

In recent years Cobham has focused increasingly on his own output as leader. De Cuba y De Panama is a collaboration between the drummer and Asere that was organised by Womad in Spain in 2002. Asere are a young group from Havana who are one of the leading lights of the Cuban Son movement. Son Cubano, originating in the eastern part of Cuba, can be traced back to the 16th century and combines Spanish canción, Spanish guitar with African percussive rhythms.

As its title implies, this music is a hybrid of Cuban, Latin and jazz music and in part represents Cobham's exploration of his roots - though born in Panama, he departed with his parents for New York at the tender age of three. The music throughout is a pleasure: melodic, clear-sighted and full of warmth. Panama and Hoja, Otono Y Flor are sustained pieces awash with languorous guitar, trumpet and percussion, while the likes of Decir Asere raise the temperature with impassioned vocals and faster tempos.

Cobham's performance on De Cuba y De Panama may surprise those familiar with his signature, muscular style. Here he's a tender and sensitive contributor who never dominates. Nevertheless he plays a key role in an ensemble that has produced a highly enjoyable debut.

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