Jazz CD Reviews

Cindy Blackman – Another Lifetime – Four Quarters Entertainment

Cindy Blackman pays tribute to mentor and friend Tony Williams.

Published on March 1, 2010

Cindy Blackman – Another Lifetime – Four Quarters Entertainment

Cindy Blackman – Another Lifetime – Four Quarters Entertainment FQT-CD-1820, 55:01***1/2:

(Cindy Blackman – drums, vocals, producer; Doug Carn – organ (tracks 1-4, 6-7, 9); Benny Rietveld – bass (tracks 1-4, 6-7, 9); Mike Stern – guitar (tracks 1-4, 6-7, 9); Carlton Holmes – synthesizer (tracks 5, 10); Fionn Ó Lochlainn – guitar (tracks 5, 10); Joe Lovano – tenor saxophone (track 8); Vernon Reid – guitar (track 11); Patrice Rushen – Fender Rhodes, synth (track 11); David Santos – bass (track 11))

Tony Williams’ Lifetime was a seminal jazz-rock combo that led the fusion movement and laid the foundation for much of what erupted in the ‘70s and ‘80s. On Cindy Blackman’s latest sojourn, Another Lifetime, the gifted drummer presents an hour-long set devoted to the music that her late friend and mentor, Tony Williams, created during Lifetime’s relatively short life span from 1969 to 1975.

The 11-track offering is a combination of material associated with Tony Williams’ Lifetime as well as originals that celebrate or pay homage to what Williams accomplished during the Lifetime duration. To reconstruct the Lifetime magic, Blackman pulled together a squad of stellar artists: four different groupings for the eleven pieces. Patrice Rushen, Carlton Holmes (who has previously recorded with Blackman) and Doug Carn, who has extensive credits stretching back to the early ‘70s, take on the roles of Lifetime keyboardists Larry Young or Alan Pasqua. Bassists Benny Rietveld and David Santos echo the contributions of Jack Bruce or Tony Newton. Guitarists Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Mike Stern (Miles Davis, Steps Ahead and others) and Fionn Ó Lochlainn (an English musician with many pop/rock ties) fulfill the positions held by John McLaughlin and Allan Holdsworth. Noted tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano contributes to the album’s only non-Lifetime Williams’ tune, “Love Song.”

Another Lifetime is no mere duplication, however, but rather a re-imagining of Williams’ vision. Excellent examples of Blackman’s intentions are three distinct versions of Carla Bley’s “Vashkar,” an authoritative tour de force from the first Lifetime record, Emergency! The first take is a straightforward rendition that repeats the dense and adventurous 1969 offering. Stern furnishes gnarly guitar that rages and blasts while Blackman renders a fervid and forcible momentum. Carn delivers etched organ flourishes that fill any holes. “Vashkar Reprise” is a shorter and funkier derivation that otherwise stays true to Williams’ design. However, “Vashkar – The Alternate Dimension Theory” is truly different, a space-jam departure that is morphed and mutated into a lengthy and free-flowing exposition.

A definite highlight is a drums/sax duet which pairs Lovano and Blackman on an extended bop-oriented interpretation of Williams’ 1965 composition, “Love Song,” from Williams’ second solo outing, Spring. Blackman keeps up a forceful percussive tempest while Lovano maintains a visceral melodic style that sometimes hints at Wayne Shorter, who played on Williams’ studio date. There are relatively few drums/sax unions and this is one where the musicians obviously pay attention to each other and offer a compelling presentation. Rushen and Reid both show their chops on engaging album-ending “Wildlife,” a lyrical jaunt inflected by Rushen’s melodic Fender Rhodes and Reid’s slashing six-string.

Blackman’s songs are less striking, which includes brief spoken-word segment “40 Years of Innovation” and a condensed improvisation “The Game Theory.” The muscular “And Heaven Welcomed a King” is a stronger work where Carn and Stern create an imposing fusion tsunami.

1. Vashkar
2. Where
3. Beyond Games
4. Vashkar Reprise
5. 40 Years of Innovation
6. The Game Theory
7. Vashkar – The Alternate Dimension Theory
8. Love Song
9. And Heaven Welcomed a King
10. There Comes a Time
11. Wildlife

— Doug Simpson

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