Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Billy Cobham and Asere


York Theatre Royal and touring
(2008)

With York Theatre Royal's increasingly diverse and invigorating programme of different performance artists comes an evening of Cuban Jazz from Billy Cobham and Asere. Jazz drumming icon, Billy Cobham, first teamed up with the Cuban septet Asere at the 2002 Womad Festival in Spain. Since then nothing has held them back and here they tour to promote their new album De Cuba y De Panama.

This album presents an interesting exploration of Cobham's roots, as the drummer was born in Cuba but his family moved to New York when he was three. Cobham was first known for his work with trumpeter Miles Davis in the late 1960s and early '70s and has been described as "fusion's greatest drummer" with a significantly influential style that combines muscular power with exacting precision. Cobham's work with the young group brings together a hybrid of Cuban and Jazz with an infectious Latin vibe. Asere, from Havana, are currently one of the leading lights of the Cuban Son movement and here their warm relationship with Cobham really shines through in a thoroughly effective and reciprocal collaboration.

With Cobham and his drums on a raised platform surrounded by the seven male artists that form Asere this is certainly not a typical evening out at York Theatre Royal. Combining Spanish canción, Spanish guitar with African percussive rhythms, Son Cubano originates from the eastern part of Cuba and for the opening set every musician has a chance to shine, displaying their impressive talents. Cobham and Asere's music is undoubtedly made to dance to and when a couple from the band's staff dance down the aisles to the front of the stalls it provides the visual highlight of the evening. However this also provided the one problem of the evening - sitting in a theatre listening to Cuban rhythms while your feet are dying to dance is never the same as jumping from your seat to take to the dance floor. For this reason it did feel that some of the numbers were slightly prolonged, which undoubtedly would not have been the case had the band been playing to a pulsating dance floor full of people, with a few spectators on surrounding tables. If only York Theatre Royal could have removed their stalls seating they would have had an absolutely irresistible dance space full of bodies moving to the music.

And this (to a limited extent) was the case by the end of the evening. The vocalist had not only all of the audience on their feet but singing replies to his lead. As the audience unanimously responded to the band's fantastic rhythms and even the ushers were dancing in the aisles this was a hugely successful, inspiring and enlivening evening out at the theatre. Long may York Theatre Royal's diverse programme of events continue.

Reviewer: Cecily Boys