My “Six Days at Ronnie Scott’s: Billy Cobham on Jazz Fusion and the Art of Creation” is voted one of the year’s top four jazz books in the just released JazzTimes Reader’s Poll. The winner of the poll is Dexter Gordon: Sophisticated Giant by Maxine Gordon. Other runners-up are Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century by Nate Chinen and Tony Bennett: Onstage and in the Studio by Tony Bennett with Dick Golden
London jazz reviewer Frank Griffith reviewed the June London Cobham show and now publishes his review of the book. Check out the full London Jazz News review here, and enjoy the excerpts below.
Brian Gruber: Six Days At Ronnie Scott’s – Billy Cobham On Jazz Fusion And The Act Of Creation
(Book Review by Frank Griffith)
“Brian Gruber‘s new book has the hallmarks of one of the greatest tomes about perhaps the most influential drummers and bandleaders of this or any other era. Gruber has captured Billy Cobham‘s insights, humour and straightforwardness to an extent that no one else has previously achieved. One major reason for this is Gruber’s approach of interweaving the texts of one-to-one interviews with Cobham with his observations of the Billy Cobham/Guy Barker Big Band during their 2017 six-day residency at Ronnie Scott’s. This allows the reader to move between the two kinds of narrative in a balanced way, avoiding the need to absorb too much of either in one go. Not unlike a radio host playing frequent tracks interspersed with interviewing a noted guest, Gruber clearly gets the balance right, keeping the reader’s attention as he makes each new angle on how Billy ticks emerge into view.
“Six Days provides a terrific insight into the music and life of a world-class drummer resulting in a unique and challenging document for fans of Cobham, jazz, fusion and the culture of the 60s and 70s. A must and thoroughly enjoyable read.”
September 27, 2018 Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Great stories are only great when told by great story tellers and Gruber is top draw, because, this is a great story! The author manages to capture the very essence of the brilliant Mr. Cobham, a musician who has been thrilling us with his musical artistry, for the past 50 years and who mischievously continues to confuse and evade the jazz police’s facile labels. An underrated composer with a prodigious body of work, Billy Cobham is deadly serious about the art of playing drums and is a man who doesn’t suffer fools easily.
There are occasional displays of mild irritation at Gruber’s line of questioning, but Gruber, no acolyte, persists and is rewarded with Cobham’s no holds barred responses. I’m guessing this is because there is trust between author and subject. Vignettes like declining Stan Getz’ widow’s request to play Israel or his take on Keith Emerson of ELP and of course, stories of Miles and of him declining Miles’ offer to join the band and then there is the Jan Hammer interview, just some of the gems you will find in this book.
Revelations of his troubled relationship with John McLaughlin are simply riveting and this chapter alone is worth the price of the book. Occasionally funny, but mostly a raw and painful account of their relationship when both were members of the highly successful Mahavishnu Orchestra in the 1970s.
From his early years as the son of immigrant parents from Panama to his painful relationship growing up with his musician father, to his difficult and ultimately strained relationship with John McLaughlin, Cobham holds nothing back. Refreshingly, when asked awkward questions, Cobham, seems to have no filter, but a reckless respect for the truth.
If you really want to know what makes Billy Cobham tick, then buy this book. It is a moving and intimate account of a complex, sensitive and passionate musical giant. To quote Frank Black: “There are secrets being told here. If you listen closely you can spot them”.
All reviews – and purchase options – are available here.
Greetings from Koh Phangan, Thailand.
My third book, “Six Days at Ronnie Scott’s: Billy Cobham on Jazz Fusion and the Act of Creation” is getting uniformly rave reviews (see below). It was a labor of love to tell the story of one of the planet’s legendary artists in a unique style, overlaying six days of backstage interviews and observations with six decades of stories of Bill’s musical life. Music fans are loving the book. Bill just told me they are selling big time during his current weeklong Blue Note New York gig with Ron Carter and Donald Harrison.
Here are three easy ways to support the project if you are so inclined. Each would take under five minutes.
- Post a review. Hopefully, you have read the book cover to cover but even if you have only checked it out briefly (you can read sections for free on Amazon), reviews are tremendously important. I currently have seven reviews on the U.S. site, all of them five out of five stars; with more five-star reviews on other Amazon sites (UK, etc.). I would love yours as well. Read these — they will give you a good sense of the reading experience.
- Buy the book.$19.95 paperback, $9.95 Kindle e-book. The best way to support DIY art is to consume the art.
- Post on your social media feed. Something like, “Hey my friend Brian Gruber is getting rave reviews for his new book on Billy Cobham, jazz fusion and the act of creation. If you love jazz, fusion, drums, artist histories, or the Miles Davis/ Mahavishnu Orchestra era of musical experimentation, you will love this book. Check it out. Interviews with some of the greats of the genre.” https://www.amazon.com/Six-Days-Ronnie-Scotts-Creation/dp/1717493009/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1536902143&sr=1-1
That’s it. Thanks for your attention. A new book is in the works for release next year. Come visit Phangan soon.
Book blurb and reviews
Few musicians have transformed a genre like Panama-born, New York-raised Billy Cobham. “Six Days at Ronnie Scott’s: Billy Cobham on Jazz Fusion and the Act of Creation” is a one-of-a-kind oral history of a legend’s life work. From his early days with Horace Silver and Dreams to the epochal Bitches Brew sessions with Miles Davis to the breakthrough Mahavishnu Orchestra and beyond, here is a first-ever deep dive into six decades of musical innovation. The book’s setting is six days at iconic London jazz club Ronnie Scott’s, as Britain’s hottest arranger Guy Barker orchestrates and leads a big band performing Cobham’s greatest works. Jazz greats such as Ron Carter, Randy Brecker, and Jan Hammer, family members, club owners, critics and superfans provide colorful insights and remembrances. Readers are given an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look into rehearsals, performances, adjustments and preparations between shows, and the evolution of a sold-out six-day run.
“Brian Gruber’s fantastic new book… gives us a rare, behind the scenes look at the making of a six-night performance… Gruber virtually puts the reader in the cafe, the nightclub, or in the car alongside him and Cobham. There are so many fantastic stories and so much musical history… Brian Gruber’s “Six Days at Ronnie Scott’s: Billy Cobham on Jazz Fusion and the Act of Creation” will certainly stand the test of time alongside some of the greatest tomes ever penned about jazz musicians.” – Eric “Doc” Smith, BeyondChron.
“The book is a massive undertaking… Despite being raised a generation and culture apart from Bed-Sty raised Panamanian born William Emanuel Cobham, Jr., Gruber manages to pull off a remarkable feat of music journalism… The interviews with Cobham cover a galaxy of subjects; from the cruel realities of the New York public school system, to the rhythmic complexity of a woman sashaying when walking or the sonic intricacies of live performance…There is so much information in this book that any serious student of Jazz, Fusion or music history will reap a bountiful harvest…A nice touch is the Spotify Soundtrack for each chapter of the book that contains some very unexpected musical gems. Hats off to Brian Gruber who accomplished what few could have written with such elaborate authority.” – Tee Watts, Cadence Jazz Magazine
“An interesting concept… his questions are knowledgeable and penetrating… rather than dallying in the kind of film-flam that obfuscates the detail, memories and opinions that make a biography breathe… Fast paced with anecdotes pouring from every page, it wraps with Cobham describing his dream line-up to play with. Want to know who? Then go grab a copy.” – Jon Newey, editor-in-chief of Jazzwise, the UK’s biggest selling monthly jazz magazine and the leading English language jazz magazine in Europe.
“The mark of a good read is something that conjures up pictures and just in that description, you’re already putting yourself backstage and seeing these conversations happen… an absolutely fascinating read. Any fan is obviously going to enjoy this.” – Nigel Williams, Jazz FM, the UK’s “home of jazz, soul and blues.”
“Remarkably, Brian Gruber’s book is the first written on this legendary musician and although not a biography, it’s certainly biographical, overlaying six days at Ronnie Scott’s with six decades of Billy’s remarkable life and career… It’s a fascinating read… Cobham opens up and discusses several topics that I have not previously seen him discuss. It’s a terrific insight into the musical and personal life of this game-changing, world class drummer and is an essential read for fans of Cobham, Jazz, fusion and the culture of the 60s and 70s.” – Brent Keefe, Drumhead magazine.
“Well-written and thought-provoking, Gruber’s book builds into a challenging document of a half-century of cutting-edge musical exploration.” Five stars (highest rating). – Geoff Nicholls, Rhythm magazine.