Billy Cobham was born William Emanuel Cobham on May 16, 1944 in Panama but moved to New York City with his family during his early childhood. A drummer from his youth, he attended New York’s High School of Music and Art. Graduating in 1962, he played in a U.S. Army Band from 1965 to 1968, followed by joining Horace Silver’s ensemble for a year. He went on to work with Stanley Turrentine, Shirley Scott and George Benson.
Branching out into jazz fusion Cobham blended elements of jazz, rock and funk to create a signature sound and recorded with the Brecker Brothers in their 1970 group Dream. From here he performed with John Abercrombie, then touring extensively with Miles Davis and recording on may albums including A Tribute To Jack Johnson.
By 1970s, Cobham was working with John McLaughlin, co-founding the Mahavisnu Orchestra, released his first solo debut titled Spectrum, and played with Carlos Santana, George Duke and Jan Hammer. It was during this period that he began recording a series of groundbreaking fusion records and experiencing astral projections during his concerts.
He would record extensively for the fusion-oriented CTI Records, while simultaneously becoming a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. By the Eighties he was working with Jack Bruce & Friends, joined up with the Grateful Dead for a performance at Radio City Music Hall, formed his Glass Menagerie, releasing two albums with Michael Urbaniak, Gil Goldstein, Tim Landers and Mike Stern. The Nineties saw Billy with an all-star cast Live At The Greek with Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Najee and Deron Johnson.
In the millennium a number of solo albums have followed with drummer Billy Cobham releasing more than 30 recordings under his own name, and continuing to record, perform and teach.
Dennis Chambers was born May 9, 1959 in Baltimore Maryland. He started playing drums at the age of 4 and his ardent interest in drums at that age propelled him to keep playing whenever he got a chance. A child prodigy started performing in clubs at the age of 6, despite his lack of formal training. Within a short time, he had been invited to perform in most nightclubs in Baltimore area.
After graduating from high school in 1978, Chambers, then 18, joined George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, a band he played with until 1985. He was recruited in 1981 by the Sugar Hill Label to be their house drummer and played on many Sugar Hill releases including, “Rapper’s Delight”. A sought after first call drummer for his technique and speed, as well as his ability to play “in the pocket”. His session work and performance have included John Scofield, George Duke, The Brecker Brothers, Santana, John McLaughlin, Mike Stern, CAB, Craig Howe, Sugar Hill Gang and his own band Niacin, among others.
Dennis went on to gain membership with Special EFX for two years, then joined David Sanborn, and performed on the critically acclaimed Maceo Parker live album “Roots and Grooves” with the WDR Big Band. He has played with most of the major jazz-fusion musicians.
Drummer Dennis Chambers has appeared as a featured drummer on the late Show with David Letterman’s Drum Solo Week II, alongside other such notable players Tony Royster Jr., Gavin Harris, Neil Peart and Stewart Copeland. He continues to perform, tour and record.
Kendra Shank was born on April 23, 1958 in Woodland, California and was acting in plays at age 5, picked up the guitar at 13, and at 19 began her music career playing in Parisian subways and sidewalk cafés. After several years on the west coast folk and pop music circuit, a Billie Holiday recording inspired her to pursue jazz.
In 1989 Shank began studying with jazz vocalist Jay Clayton in Seattle, while keeping dual residency in Paris, France where she gigged in jazz clubs. Her jazz career blossomed quickly and in 1991 Bob Dorough hired her as vocalist-guitarist-percussionist for his west coast tour. She soon caught the attention of jazz legend Shirley Horn, who invited Kendra to perform as her guest at the Village Vanguard in New York and co-produced her critically acclaimed debut release Afterglow in 1994 featuring pianist Larry Willis and saxophonist Gary Bartz.
Kendra relocated to New York in 1997 and recorded Wish and Reflections for Jazz Focus Records, the latter debuted The Kendra Shank Quartet, her current working band. She followed these in 2007 with her groundbreaking A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook, and then with Mosaic in which she married her folk and jazz improvising talents.
Shank has been the Downbeat magazine’s top female vocalist for 1999, 2006 and 2007, has been featured on National Public Radio’s JazzSet and Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, has taught clinics at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, The New School and the Brooklyn/Queens Conservatory of Music in New York City, and the Jazz in Marciac Festival in France.
Vocalist, guitarist and percussionist Kendra Shank continues express her talents through performance recording and touring.
Victor Stanley Feldman was born on April 7, 1934 in Edgware, London, England and caused a sensation as a musical prodigy when he was discovered at aged seven. His family members were all musical and his father founded the Feldman Swing Club in 1942 to showcase his talented sons. His first professional appearance was playing drums at No. 1 Rhythm Club as a member of the Feldman Trio with brothers Robert on clarinet and Monty on piano accordion.
At eight years old the drummer was featured in the films King Arthur Was A Gentleman and Theatre Royal, in 1944 he was featured as “Kid Krupa” at a Glenn Miller AAAF band concert when he was 10, and went on to play vibraphone for Ralph Sharon Sextet and the Roy Fox band. Victor eventually made piano his instrument of choice and became best known.
Feldman recorded with Ronnie Scott’s orchestra and quintet from 1954 to 1955, and then in 1955 came to the U.S. He first worked with Woody Herman, then with Buddy Defranco. He recorded some thirty albums as a leader and recorded with Benny Goodman, George Shearing, Milt Jackson, Blue Mitchell, Lalo Schifrin, John Klemmer Sam Jones, Cannonball Adderley and others, as well as, Miles Davis on Seven Steps To Heaven, having composed the title track. He was a part of the 5-LP recording of Shelly Manne Black Hawk sessions in 1959.
Feldman settled in Los Angeles permanently and specialized in the lucrative session work for the film and recording industry. He also branched out to work with a variety of musicians outside of jazz, working with artists such as Frank Zappa, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Joe Walsh through the Seventies and Eighties.
Vibraphonist, drummer, percussionist, pianist and composer Victor Feldman died on May 12, 1987 at his home in Woodland Hills, California at age 53, following a heart attack. In 2009, he was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ralph MacDonald was born on March 15, 1944 in Harlem, New York under the close mentorship of his Trinbagonian father, Patrick MacDonald, a calypsonian and bandleader known on stage as “Macbeth the Great”. He began showing his musical talent, particularly the steelpan and at 17 started playing pan for the Harry Belafonte show.
Remaining with the Belafonte band for a decade, he struck out on his own in 1967, together with Bill Eaton and William Salter, he formed Anisitia Music, based in Stamford, Connecticut.
MacDonald’s composition Where Is The Love written with Salter was recorded in 1971 by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, won a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and received a gold record status. One of his best-known compositions, Just The Two Of Us” was recorded by Bill Withers with saxophone by Grover Washington, Jr reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been sampled by many.
Ralph worked with Quincy Jones, Ron Carter, Milt Jackson, Paul Desmond, Max Roach, Don Sebesky, Shirley Scott, Arif Mardin, Hubert Laws, Bob James, David Sanborn, George Benson, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Patti Austin, Bernard Purdie and Grover Washington as well as Burt Bacharach, Carle King, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Average White Band, Art Garfunkel, Ashford & Simpson and numerous others.
He travelled regularly back to Trinidad and Tobago, where he renewed his work in the steelpan, “beating iron” in “The Engine Room”, a steel band’s rhythm section is often called. At 12:50 AM on Sunday, December 18, 2011, songwriter, arranger, record producer, percussionist Ralph MacDonald passed away of lung cancer.