Cobham had emerged from the highly competitive studio jazz scene in the mid-1960s. He spent some years in a Chicago-styled horn rock band called Dreams, but the group lasted only a couple of records before disbanding. By the end of the decade he was playing drums for jazz icon Miles Davis, where he also worked with McLaughlin. After Davis' Bitches Brew sessions, Cobham and McLaughlin would depart, recruiting Hammer, bassist Rick Laird and violinist Jerry Goodman from the Flock. Together, they formed the first and most celebrated lineup of Mahavishnu Orchestra, with Cobham's lightning fast drumming furnishing a critical contributing component to the music's unique potency.
Cobham's first post-Mahavishnu studio album, Spectrum, which featured Jan Hammer on keyboards and the late rock guitarist Tommy Bolin, made him a rock and jazz superstar overnight. Cobham never again matched the commercial success of Spectrum, although some of his later LPs were just as good artistically. He is generally regarded as the greatest drummer to emerge from the jazz-rock fusion movement,