Cobham Back on Drums as Part of Unusual Trio

In the mid-'70s, drummer Billy Cobham knocked out jazz-rock fans with his lightning attacks on a drum set bigger than a Studebaker.

But Cobham, who plays the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach Monday, has always been much more than a speed demon.

Before the attention he received in the '70s for "Spectrum," still his best-selling album with 450,000 copies sold, Cobham placed his precise percussion work on eight of trumpeter Miles Davis's seminal electric records, including the masterful "Bitches Brew."

These days, Cobham won't commit to any one musical style. He just returned from a summit with Indian percussion masters in Bombay. Before that, he was lecturing and playing in Australia.

Cobham, who lives in Zurich, Switzerland, with his Swedish wife, isn't now signed to a recording deal. He's still not sure how he did with his last three albums, made for light jazz giant GRP Records.

"I haven't received any royalty statements," he said.

Right now, the focus is on his West Coast tour with two unlikely band mates: ex-Toto bassist Jeff Berlin and former Dixie Dregs keyboard and synthesizer man T. Lavitz. All three have written material for the trio, which first got together a few months ago.

Cobham will play one show at 8 p.m.; tickets are $9.

Dick Braun wants you to get up and shake it. The multi-talented big band leader, who will put his crew through its paces Sunday afternoon from 4 to 6 in the Bayside Amphitheatre behind the downtown San Diego Convention Center, believes jazz was never meant for a quiet, concert hall setting.

"Bands like to play when people are dancing," Braun explained. "I wish jazz could get back to that situation. People are dancing to

jazz/rock, so we like to do a little. I don't draw any lines with styles. To me, playing for people who are dancing fulfills the circle of jazz."

Generally, Braun makes his living playing private parties; sometimes the full big band is invited, but he often uses a smaller combination. Sunday's concert is a chance for jazz fans to hear his full 17-piece ensemble playing a mix of classic Count Basie, Duke Ellington and swing-era music, plus newer material. The lineup includes a seven-piece brass section and singer Joni Wilson.

Braun usually plays clarinet or sax, but sometimes he shifts to trumpet or piano. Like any good swing-era bandleader, he's a showman with a dry wit.

Like the ongoing bit about his piano player--Braun himself. Longtime Braun fans might greet him with the question, "Where's the piano player?" Sometimes Braun introduces a song like this: "We've got a thing my piano player wrote, but he couldn't be here today."

Playing jazz has always been Braun's favorite pastime, but he is versatile. He played bassoon in the San Diego Symphony from 1955 to 1975, once owned a Poway night club called The Ivanhoe and has done a fair amount of music teaching.

Sunday's concert is the first in the convention center's summer outdoor music series.

After jazz fringe dweller Sun Ra's two sold-out shows at Elario's two weeks ago, the possibility increased that avant-garde jazz pianist Cecil Taylor would come to the club June 18 or 19, after he closes at Catalina's in Los Angeles. But there's one problem: Taylor usually plays a $90,000 Bosendorfer Imperial grand piano, made in Vienna. Elario's has a Yamaha baby grand. Hoisting a 9-foot, 6-inch grand piano to the 11th-floor club isn't a likely solution. Will Taylor settle for a Yamaha, and agree to a fee the small club can afford? Stay tuned.

San Diego bassist Bob Magnusson joined several top L.A. studio musicians on "Sooner or Later," a song on Madonna's new album. Madonna "sounded good, I thought she did a nice job getting sort of a '30s or '40s sound," Magnusson reported. The singer wore "relatively normal clothes." But he wasn't exactly bowled over by the experience of working with the superstar. "It wasn't exciting. Working for Sarah Vaughan was exciting."

RIFFS: Guitarist Peter Sprague can be seen and heard with a trio on KPBS-TV's "Club Date" program Saturday at 11 p.m., and again Monday at 11:30 p.m. . . .

Percussionist Willie Winant, who has worked with the Kronos String Quartet, Keith Jarrett, Steve Reich, Nexus, Frank Zappa, Oingo Boingo and John Zorn, performs tonight at 8 in UC San Diego's Mandeville Auditorium. . . .

May 24 and 25, pianist Dave Mackay and flutist Lori Bell team for 8 p.m. concerts at Words & Music bookstore in Hillcrest. Reservations are recommended (298-4011). . . .

Trombonist and vocalist Aubrey Fay leads his band tonight through Saturday night at the B St. Cafe & Bar downtown. . . .

Sunday night at 7, KSDS-FM's (88.3) "Le Jazz Club" program features a jam including trumpeter Enrico Rava, pianist Franco D'Ambrosio, bassist Miroslav Vitous and drummer Daniel Humair. . . .

On Wednesday, Fattburger headlines the "Jazz Trax" night at the Catamaran Resort Hotel on Mission Bay. . . .

Holding down the noon-to-3:30 solo piano shift at Cafe Lautrec in La Jolla: today, Rocky Cole; Friday, Daniel Jackson; Saturday, Shep Meyers. . . .

L.A. guitarist Tom Garvin joins San Diego flutist Holly Hofmann this Friday and Saturday nights in the Horton Grand Hotel's Palace Bar downtown. . . .

Kelly's Pub in Old Town continues its Friday and Saturday night jams. . . .

The music of Duke Ellington comes alive in the able hands of The Mellotones this Friday in a free 5 to 7 p.m. concert at Chamberlin Hall, on the Mission Valley campus of National University. This is the last of the San Diego Jazz Society's free spring concerts.

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