Basic Background Info

Birth: May 16, 1944
Location: Panama
Band: The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Spectrum
Genres: Jazz, Fusion
Instruments: Drums
Occupation: Musician



Born in Panama and raised in New York City, fusion's greatest drummer William C. Cobham graduated from the High School of Music and Art and then played percussion in the U.S. Army Band for three years. Following his discharge, Billy Cobham played with pianist Horace Silver, saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, organist Shirley Scott, and guitarist George Benson.

Soon Billy Cobham branched out into jazz-fusion, blending jazz, rock and roll, and funk. Billy Cobham played with the Brecker Brothers and John Abercrombie before he worked extensively with Miles Davis. Billy Cobham performed on several recordings with Davis, including Bitches Brew, Live-Evil, and A Tribute to Jack Johnson. Billy Cobham was the best fusion drummer at the time and one of the first to play open handed lead.

Billy Cobham worked with John McLaughlin and together they created a hard-rocking jazz -fusion ensemble, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, in 1971. Mahavishnu released their first album, The Inner Mounting Flame, in 1971 it was full of Billy Cobham's intensity. While performing with the Orchestra, Billy Cobham recorded his first album Spectrum as a bandleader, which was released in 1973. Billy Cobham became an accomplished bandleader and led many musicians into world-class fusion. Throughout fusion's heyday in the 1970s, Billy Cobham's bands recorded with various labels, before focusing on work in sessions and as a sideman.

During the 1980s, Billy Cobham worked with bands Jack Bruce & Friends, the Grateful Dead, and Greek Theatre. Billy Cobham also recorded with his quartet, the Glass Menagerie. In the late 1980s, Billy took international touring more seriously and exposed himself to world music influences. Billy created an acoustic quartet, Nordic, in 1996 with three Norwegian musicians. The following year he formed Paradox, a German fusion group. And then Billy performed popular jazz interpretations of the Grateful Dead with Jazz is Dead.

Billy continues working as a bandleader and a session drummer. Through 2005, he toured extensively, both performing and offering drum clinics.


Album Year Album Name Album Band
1955 Circle in the Round Miles Davis
1988 Miles Davis: The Columbia Years 1955-1985 Miles Davis
1958 Gene Ammons All Stars Gene Ammons
1960 Directions Miles Davis
1961 Ballads Stanley Turrentine
1962 Best of Mose Allison Mose Allison
1963 More Adventures Various Artists
1965 Great Moments in Jazz Various Artists
1966 Easy Walker Stanley Turrentine
1967 Blue Benson George Benson
1967 Compact Jazz: George Benson George Benson
1967 Silver Collection George Benson
1967 This Is Jazz, Vol. 38: Electric Miles Davis
1968 Ain't No Way Stanley Turrentine
1968 Essential Larry Coryell Larry Coryell
1968 Giblet Gravy George Benson
1968 Night Song Kenny Burrell
1968 Serenade to a Soul Sister Horace Silver
1968 Verve Jazz Masters 21 George Benson
1969 Big Fun Miles Davis
1969 Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (August 1969-February 1970) Miles Davis
1969 I Heard That! Quincy Jones
1969 Uptown Conversation Ron Carter
1969 You Gotta Take a Little Love Horace Silver
1970 Best of Freddie Hubbard Freddie Hubbard
1970 Best of Hubert Laws Hubert Laws
1970 Best of Roy Ayers: Love Fantasy Roy Ayers
1970 Best of Stanley Turrentine Stanley Turrentine
1970 Crying Song Hubert Laws
1970 Dreams Dreams
1970 Leon Thomas Album Leon Thomas
1970 Live-Evil Miles Davis
1970 My Goal's Beyond Mahavishnu John McLaughlin
1970 Purple Miroslav Vitous
1970 Red Clay Freddie Hubbard
1970 Spaces Larry Coryell
1970 Tribute to Jack Johnson Miles Davis
1970 With a Lotta Help from My Friends Junior Mance
1971 Best of George Benson George Benson
1971 Breakout Johnny "Hammond" Smith
1971 California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium Various Artists
1971 Circles William S. Fischer
1971 God Bless the Child Kenny Burrell
1971 Inner Mounting Flame Mahavishnu Orchestra With John McLaughli
1971 Mama Wailer Lonnie Smith
1971 Pepper's Pow Wow Jim Pepper
1971 Salt Song Stanley Turrentine
1971 Western Man Mose Allison
1971 White Rabbit George Benson
1971 Wild Horses/Rock Steady Johnny "Hammond" Smith
1972 All the King's Horses Grover Washington, Jr.
1972 Best of Airto Airto
1972 Best of Paul Desmond Paul Desmond
1972 Big Bad Jug Gene Ammons
1972 Birds of Fire Mahavishnu Orchestra With John McLaughli
1972 Blue Moses Randy Weston
1972 Charles III Charles Earland
1972 Cherry Stanley Turrentine with Milt Jackson
1972 Get Up with It Miles Davis
1972 Goodbye Milt Jackson
1972 Gypsy Man Robin Kenyatta
1972 Imagine My Surprise Dreams
1972 Intensity Charles Earland
1972 Introducing the Eleventh House with Larry Coryell The Eleventh House
1972 Love Devotion Surrender Carlos Santana
1972 Mizrab Gabor Szabo
1972 Morning Star Hubert Laws
1972 Natural Causes Richard Landis
1972 Now Astrud Gilberto
1972 One by One Free Design
1972 Prelude Deodato
1972 Prophet Johnny "Hammond" Smith
1972 Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway Roberta Flack
1972 Sky Dive Freddie Hubbard
1972 Sunflower Milt Jackson
1973 At Carnegie Hall Hubert Laws
1973 Between Nothingness & Eternity Mahavishnu Orchestra
1973 Blues Farm Ron Carter
1973 Born Again J.J. Barnes
1973 Deodato 2 Deodato
1973 Giant Box Don Sebesky
1973 Icarus Paul Winter Consort
1973 Lost Trident Sessions Mahavishnu Orchestra
1973 McLaughlin & Santana Mahavishnu John McLaughlin/Carlos Santan
1973 Other Road Ray Barretto
1973 Soul Box, Vol. 2 Grover Washington, Jr.
1973 Spectrum Billy Cobham
1974 Atmospheres Clive Stevens
1974 Crosswinds Billy Cobham
1974 Hotcakes Carly Simon
1974 Latin-Soul-Rock Fania All-Stars
1974 Moonlight Serenade/Havana Strut Deodato
1974 Polar AC Freddie Hubbard
1974 Shabazz Billy Cobham
1974 Spaces Larry Coyell
1974 Spanish Blue Ron Carter
1974 Total Eclipse Billy Cobham
1974 Whirlwinds Deodato
1975 Forest of Feelings David Sancious
1975 Funky Thide of Sings Billy Cobham
1975 Journey Arif Mardin
1975 Planet End Larry Coryell
1975 Remolinos Deodato
1975 Sugar Man Stanley Turrentine
1976 Live on Tour in Europe Billy Cobham
1976 Fly with the Wind McCoy Tyner
1976 Life & Times Billy Cobham
1976 Look out for #1 The Brothers Johnson
1976 School Days Stanley Clarke
1976 Starland Vocal Band Starland Vocal Band
1976 Street Called Straight Roy Buchanan
1976 To the Heart Mark-Almond
1976 Way I Feel Sonny Rollins
1976 Yellow & Green Ron Carter
1976 Time to Fly David Pomeranz
1977 2001 Deodato
1977 Alivemutherforya Billy Cobham
1977 Inner Conflicts Billy Cobham
1977 Magic Billy Cobham
1977 Montreux Summit, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1977 Simplicity of Expression: Depth of Thought Billy Cobham
1977 Solo Two Pete & Sheila Escovedo
1977 Very Best of Deodato Deodato
1978 Best of Donny Hathaway Donny Hathaway
1978 Happy Together Pete & Sheila Escovedo
1978 Headin' Home Jimmy Owens
1978 Jazz Magazine George Benson
1978 Magic/Simplicity of Expression: Depth of Thought Billy Cobham
1978 Montreux Summit, Vol. 2 Various Artists
1979 Adrenalin David Bendeth
1979 Asi Hablo Zarathustra Deodato
1979 B.C. Billy Cobham
1979 Electric Guitarist John McLaughlin
1979 Euphoria Gato Barbieri
1979 New York Slick Ron Carter
1980 Billy Cobham Live: Flight Time Billy Cobham
1980 I've Always Wanted to Do This Jack Bruce
1980 Live at the Public Theater in New York, Vol. 1 Gil Evans
1980 Live at the Public Theatre in New York, Vol. 2 Gil Evans
1980 Mejor de Deodato Deodato
1980 Sebesky Fantasy Don Sebesky
1980 Swish Harris Simon Group
1981 Bobby & the Midnites Bob Weir
1981 Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, McCoy Tyner Corea/Hancock/Jarrett/Tyner
1981 Clarke/Duke Project, Vol. 1 Stanley Clarke & George Duke
1981 GB George Benson
1981 George Benson Collection George Benson
1981 Just Desert David Bendeth
1981 Stratus Billy Cobham's Glass Menagerie
1982 CTI Double Gold Superdisc Various Artists
1982 Lessons in Living Mose Allison
1982 Noche Sol Ron Carter
1982 Observations & Reflections Billy Cobham's Glass Menagerie
1982 Smokin' Billy Cobham's Glass Menagerie
1983 Clarke/Duke Project, Vol. 2 Stanley Clarke & George Duke
1983 Super Fusion 1900: Deodato Deodato
1984 Bobby & the Midnites Bob Weir
1984 Deodato Deodato
1984 Mahavishnu Mahavishnu Orchestra
1984 Where the Beat Meets the Street Bobby & The Midnites
1985 Billy's Best Hits Billy Cobham
1985 Consortium Billy Cobham
1985 Warning Billy Cobham
1986 Atlantic Jazz: Fusion Various Artists
1986 Best of Deodato Deodato
1986 Best of George Benson George Benson
1986 Power Play Billy Cobham
1987 Music for a New Age Various Artists
1987 Picture This Billy Cobham
1988 Best of Billy Cobham Billy Cobham
1988 Fire and Passion Gato Barbieri
1988 WQCD: Cool Sounds of CD 101.9, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1989 Jazz Club: Drums Various Artists
1989 Jazz Club: Piano Various Artists
1989 KIFM: Smooth Sounds of San Diego, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1989 Passion Peter Gabriel
1989 Ultimate: The Best of Tommy Bolin Tommy Bolin
1990 Atlantic Jazz: 12 Vol. Box Set Various Artists
1990 Atlantic Jazz: Piano Various Artists
1990 Deodato 2 Deodato
1990 GRP Digital Sampler, Vol. 2 Various Artists
1990 Guitar Player Presents: Legends of Guitar: Jazz Various Artists
1990 No Filters Billy Cobham
1991 Best of McLaughlin John McLaughlin
1991 Magamusica Mario Rosini
1991 Meets Bellson Billy Cobham
1991 Star Time James Brown
1992 Best of Billy Cobham Billy Cobham
1992 Dreams Dreams
1992 Live from Bahia Larry Coryell
1992 Mastertouch Torsten de Winkel
1992 Meltdown: The Birth of Fusion Various Artists
1992 No Filters Wolfgang Schmid's Kick
1992 Music from & Inspired by the Film The Devil's Toothpick Ernie Watts
1993 Devil's Toothpick Original Soundtrack
1993 Fallen Angel Larry Coryell
1993 Faso Denou Farafina
1993 Itz Da Joint Joint Ventures
1993 Jam Nation Way Down Below Buffalo Hell
1993 Live at the Greek Stanley Clarke
1993 Lost and Found Jimmy Scott
1993 Traveler Billy Cobham
1993 Varig Collection: Easy Listening, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1993 Windows, Vol. 2 Various Artists
1994 Allison Wonderland: Anthology Mose Allison
1994 Atlantic Jazz: Best of the '70s Various Artists
1994 Beat of a Different Drummer Various Artists
1994 Burning for Buddy: A Tribute to the Music of Buddy Rich Various Artists
1994 Speed of Light Flora Purim
1994 Varig Collection: Movie Theme Songs, Vol. 2 Various Artists
1995 Evolution: The Polydor Anthology Roy Ayers
1995 Live on the Old Grey Whistle Test: BBC Live in Concert Jack Bruce
1995 Week or Two in the Real World Various Artists
1996 Best of Grover Washington, Jr. Grover Washington, Jr.
1996 Best of Kudu: Jazz Budget Line Various Artists
1996 Blaxploitation, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1996 Blue Note Plays Jobim Various Artists
1996 From the Archives, Vol. 1 Tommy Bolin
1996 Groovy, Vol. 1: A Collection of Rare Jazzy Club Tracks Various Artists
1996 Incoming Billy Cobham
1996 Make It Funky - The Big Payback: 1971-1975 James Brown
1996 Sax for Lovers Various Artists
1996 This Is Jazz, Sampler, Vol. 21 Various Artists
1996 This Is Jazz, Vol. 17 John McLaughlin
1996 Windows, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1997 70's Funk Jazz Various Artists
1997 Born Again, Again! J.J. Barnes
1997 CTI Records: The Birth of Groove Various Artists
1997 CTI: Acid Jazz Grooves Various Artists
1997 Jazz Fusion, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1997 Low & Slow: The Blue Note Tenor Sax Ballads Collection Various Artists
1997 Ministry of Sound Presents: The Sessions, Vol. 7 David Morales
1997 Paradox Billy Cobham/Bill Bickford/Wolfgang Schm
1997 Solo Two/Happy Together Pete Escovedo & Sheila Escovedo
1997 Spaces Revisited Larry Coryell
1997 Talkin' Verve George Benson
1997 This Is Jazz, Vol. 25 Freddie Hubbard
1998 Blue Light Rain Jazz Is Dead
1998 Classic Jazz-Funk, Vol. 3 Various Artists
1998 Deodato: The Best of Deodato in the CTI Years Deodato
1998 From the Archives, Vol. 2 Tommy Bolin
1998 Mississippi Nights: Billy Cobham Live Billy Cobham
1998 Pulp Fusion, Vol. 2: Return to the Tough Side Various Artists
1998 Salt Song Stanley Turrentine
1998 Skin Fever: The Drums Project on the 4 Various Artists
1998 This Is Jazz, Vol. 41 Stanley Clarke
1998 Very Best of Latin Jazz Various Artists
1998 White Rabbit George Benson
1999 Afro-Cuban Grooves, Vol. 4 Various Artists
1999 Billboard Top Contemporary Jazz: Rock Various Artists
1999 By Design Billy Cobham
1999 Concert Classics, Vol. 9 Jack Bruce
1999 Improvisations: Best of the Vanguard Years Larry Coryell
1999 Jazz: The Definitive Performances Various Artists
1999 Retrospective Horace Silver
1999 Sofistifunk: Jazzrock Club Classics Various Artists
1999 Various Fusion 101 Various Artists
1999 Western Man/Mose in Your Ear Mose Allison
2000 Anthology Charles Earland
2000 Best of Eumir Deodato Deodato
2000 Best of Freddie Hubbard in the CTI Years Freddie Hubbard
2000 Best of Gabor Szabo in the CTI Years Gabor Szabo
2000 Best of Milt Jackson in the CTI Years Milt Jackson
2000 Best of Ron Carter in the CTI Years Ron Carter
2000 Charlie's Greatest Hits Charles Earland
2000 Cinematix Robbie Krieger
2000 Essential Mix FranÁois K
2000 Fanfare 8 Fred Tompkins
2000 Finding Forrester Original Soundtrack
2000 Flic ou Voyou/Le Guignolo Philippe Sarde
2000 Forest Flowers Richard Davis
2000 Gato Barbieri's Finest Hour Gato Barbieri
2000 George Benson Anthology George Benson
2000 Giant Box Don Sebesky
2000 Incontournables Chick Corea
2000 Incontournables Herbie Hancock
2000 Live: Flight Time Billy Cobham
2000 Night Out With Verve Various Artists
2000 Prelude Deodato
2000 Time & Love Jackie & Roy
2001 Art of Three Billy Cobham
2001 Billy Cobham Billy Cobham
2001 Divine Light: Reconstructions & Mix Translation - Bill Laswell Carlos Santana & Bill Laswell
2001 Doing This...On Ice! Jack Bruce
2001 Funkology Various Artists
2001 Here Dean Brown
2001 Live-Evil Miles Davis
2001 Preludes & Rhapsodies Deodato
2001 Rudiments: The Billy Cobham Anthology Billy Cobham
2002 Breakout Johnny "Hammond" Smith
2002 God Bless the Child Kenny Burrell
2002 Live from Bahia Larry Coryell
2002 Milestone: Galaxy Sampler Various Artists
2002 Sugar Stanley Turrentine
2003 Complete Jack Johnson Sessions Miles Davis
2003 Don't Mess with Mister T. Stanley Turrentine
2003 Fine and Mellow Gene Ammons
2003 Hit Peter Gabriel
2003 Love Devotion Surrender Santana
2003 Michel Sardaby in New York Michel Sardaby
2003 Mort d'un Pourri Philippe Sarde & Stan Getz
2004 Ballads 2004: Tomorrow's Jazz Classics Various Artists
2004 CTI Master Collection, Vol. 2 Various Artists
2004 Drum N Voice Billy Cobham
2004 Funk Fantastique Charles Earland
2004 Guitar & Bass Ron Carter
2004 Guitar & Bass John McLaughlin
2004 Heroes Donald Harrison
2004 Raison d' tre Frank Gambale
2004 Someone to Watch Over Me: The Definitive Little Jimmy Scott
2004 Trios: East River Drive/Schooldays/Live at the Greek Stanley Clarke
2004 Trios Deodato
2005 Anthology - The Soul-Jazz Fusion Years: 66-82 Freddie Hubbard
2005 Anthology Leon Thomas
2005 Beginning Deodato/Lonnie Smith
2005 Blue Note Plays Jobim Various Artists
2005 CTI CD Club: The Best of CTI, 2-CD Set Various Artists
2005 Culturemix Billy Cobham
2005 Free Style Donald Harrison
2005 Hot Sweat: The Best of Fania Allstars Live Fania All Stars
2005 In Concert Herbie Hancock
2005 Jazz Collection Various Artists
2005 Live Stock/A Street Called Straight Roy Buchanan
2005 Now Astrud Gilberto
2005 Progressions: 100 Years of Jazz Guitar Various Artists
2005 Time & Love: A Tribute to CTI Freetempo
2005 Together as One Gregg Kofi Brown & Friends
2005 Two Originals: White Rabbit/Good King Bad George Benson
2005 Caravaggio Massimo Colombo
2006 Again Ronnie Jones
2006 Collectables Classics Mose Allison
2006 CTI Timeless Collection: Deodato Deodato
2006 Drum N Voice 2 Billy Cobham
2006 Essential George Benson George Benson
2006 Flight Time Billy Cobham
2006 Garage Classics Vol.2 Deodato
2006 Introducing Billy Cobham Billy Cobham
2006 Introducing Mose Allison Mose Allison
2006 Live in Hope: The Wildlife Album, Vol. 2 Various Artists
2006 Music for Lovers Horace Silver
2006 Todos Sus Grandes Exitos Deodato
2007 Do It Again Deodato
2007 Essential John McLaughlin John McLaughlin
2007 Evolution of the Groove Miles Davis
2007 Featuring Novecento Novecento
2007 I Love Kudu: Best 20 Various Artists
2007 Original Album Classics Stanley Clarke
2007 Stereo Sounds Deodato
2007 Together as One Gregg Kofi Brown & Friends
2008 Mehr Pouya Mahmoodi
2008 Ultimate: Redux Tommy Bolin


  • Billy was one of the first percussionists, along with Max Roach and Tony Williams, to utilize the Electronic Drum Controller made in 1968 by the Meazzi Drum Company in Milano, Italy, while on concert tour with Horace Silver in Europe.

Instruments of Choice



Drums: Yamaha
Cymbals: Sabian
Hardware: Yamaha
Electronics: Yamaha
Sticks: Vic Firth

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