The Jazz Café has always played host to incredible jazz acts, but to combine arguably the greatest fusion drummer of all time with one the most exciting upcoming bands is a big feat, even for this historical venue.
Kicking things off with a short but sweet set were Lydian Collective, a stunningly tight fusion band, comprised of keyboard player Aaron ‘Laszlo’ Wheeler, guitarist Todd Baker, in-demand drummer Sophie Alloway and exceptionally virtuosic bassist Ida Hollis. The set mostly consisted of tunes from their debut album ‘Adventure’ (you can read GIGsoup’s review here).
Opening track ‘Loops’ is tainted with the chatter and clanking of those eating upstairs, but by ‘Equinox’, the audience is almost silent- mesmerised by their exceptionally well-rehearsed music. Their brand new single ‘High 555’ is pushed forward by an amazingly virtuosic bassline, with Hollis’ hands flying around the neck of her bass, while an exceptional drum solo from Alloway foreshadows the percussive journey to follow. Despite avoiding their most popular (and admittedly, best) tunes, they truly are a tremendous band who only get better in a live setting.
Having worked alongside Miles Davis, firstly during a Bitches Brew session and soon as part of his enigmatic fusion band, Cobham first started to make a name for himself in the jazz scene 50 years ago. Now 75 years old, Cobham continues to gig. His drumming ability somehow pretty much just as good as it was all those years ago, and his happy chatter as jubilant and excitable as a man half his age.
A celebration of the Crosswinds album, the set began with the tune of the same name. Cobham’s huge, punchy kit was perfectly balanced with the rest of the band, which included a jazz bassoonist- something I didn’t even really know existed before now, but I’m glad I do now. Solos swept across every member, with their individual virtuosity demonstrating why the legendary Cobham had asked them to be a part of his current band.
Initially introducing it as a rare tune, before quickly changing his mind, ‘Stratus’ was performed with as much power as it is on 1973’s ‘Spectrum’, while the strange avant-garde style of ‘Under The Baobab Tree’ allows a bright, yet strangely chromatic classical guitar part to take centre stage. Of course, Cobham’s fills and mini-solos had been littered throughout the set, but when his only extended solo finally came, it brought with it the only total silence of the night from the audience. His mesmerizing control over his strange semi-left handed kit, almost metal style double bass pedalling and the audience as a whole was stunning to watch, and the eruption of applause that followed the solo produced way more noise than this tiny venue should have been able to.
The main set is ended with a brand new track called ‘Conundrum’, with Cobham stating that he ‘hopes it doesn’t sound like a premier’. Everyone on stage is staring intently at their sheet music throughout, while counting out time signatures and bar numbers on their fingers desperately trying to keep up. They manage pretty well, with Cobham sitting between them all, calmly understanding the entire piece- lips pursed and eyes half closed. Rather than getting up and waiting for calls of encore, the band burst into arguably the best jazz fusion tune of all time- ‘Red Baron’. The perfect way to end a stunning night of legendary jazz.
Make sure to catch both Billy Cobham and Lydian Collective live as soon as you can.