Cindy Blackman – Another Lifetime – Four Quarters Entertainment FQT-CD-1820, 55:05 ****:
(Cindy Blackman – drums, vocals, spoken word; Doug Carn – organ; Benny Rietveld – bass; Mike Stern – guitar; Carlton Holmes – synthesizer; Fionn O Lochlainn – guitar; Vernon Reid – guitar; Patrice Rushen – Fender Rhodes, synthesizer; David Santos – bass; Joe Lovano – tenor sax)
Cindy Blackman was destined to be a musician. With both of her parents steeped in classical music, she would acquire a first set of drums at age seven. After studying at the Hart School of Music in Hartford, she would develop an affinity for jazz after hearing Max Roach. She would continue at the Berklee School of Music, eventually moving to New York and observing a plethora of great drummers, including mentors, Art Blakey and Tony Williams. While a disciple of these drummers, Blackman would work incessantly to formulate her own sound and drumming styles.
Two of her compositions appeared on Wallace Roney’s “Versus” album. Her first solo effort, “Arcane” served notice of a promising bandleader. A telephone audition with Lenny Kravitz resulted in a decade long association. But an inevitable return to the jazz idiom would ensue, to develop “virtuosity” and composition intricacies. She records, enjoys performing in small clubs, and teaching drum at clinics around the world.
Her latest release, Another Lifetime, is a tribute to Tony Williams, a jazz drummer often credited with the merger of jazz and rock. Displaying a versatile organic command of the complete drum set, Blackman emerges as an energetic and dominant bandleader. At the core of this eclectic undertaking is a three-song suite. The first part, “Vashkar” has a pulsating bass and drum rhythm, launching the blistering guitar of Mike Stern, and the accents of Doug Carn on the organ. The second piece, “Vashkar Reprise” continues with the quartet’s driving bravado. “Vashkar, The Alternative Dimension Theory, the final installment, provides a more experimental, almost spacey elegance. Dissonant guitar runs and spooky organ riffs are punctuated by Benny Rietveld’s deft bass play, and discerning technique by Blackman.
“Love Song” a duet with tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano is a distinctive change of pace. A rumbling drum opening is quickly followed by a bop exploration of melody. Again Blackman’s drumming licks are evident with her creativity on the cymbals, in cadence with the saxophone notations. A standout track is “Wildlife”, featuring lyrical funky guitar work by Vernon Reid. Patrice Rushen counters with a cascading, silky Fender Rhodes accompaniment and solo, enveloping the recurring theme. On the Tony Williams composition, “Where” a frantic urgency is conveyed as the quartet renders an incandescent, freewheeling synergy.
This is a fitting homage from a devoted artist to a groundbreaking pioneer.
TrackList: Vashkar; Where; Beyond Games; Vashkar Reprise; 40 Years of Innovation; The Game Theory; Vashkar –The Alternate Dimension Theory; Love Song; And Heaven Welcomed a King; There Comes a Time; Wildlife
— Robbie Gerson