Although the name Cindy Blackman may not be immediately familiar to most people, her drumming has been heard by millions. She has been playing behind Lenny Kravitz continuously since 1993, save for a period in 2004.
Cindy’s talents as a drummer stretch far beyond mere rock ‘n’ roll drumming though. Her first love is jazz, and she was exposed to it very early. "The first drummer I ever saw, where I got to feel the impact up close, was Tony Williams," Blackman has said. "When I was 16, Tony came to my local drum store with bassist and did a [drum] clinic that left a powerful impression on me.”
Her love of Williams’ extraordinary style is evident on her latest album, Another Lifetime. The record is a tribute to Blackman’s onetime mentor, and includes a number of his compositions along with tunes that are closely associated with him.
The opening track, “Vashkar,” is a nice example. Although it was written by Carla Bley, Williams made it his own on the first Lifetime LP, Emergency! The original recording featured John McLaughlin on guitar, while Blackman’s utilizes the great Mike Stern. Otherwise, the two tunes are similar, although Blackman does expand upon the original a bit. Organist Doug Carne, and bassist Benny Reitvald round out the main quartet here, and are featured on another six of the album's eleven tracks.
The searing intensity that Lifetime were so noted for is really first broached by Blackman's band on the second cut, “Where.” This nine-minute powerhouse finds the four of them on fire, especially organist Carne, who is filling the role Larry Young did on Emergency!
Next up is another classic Emergency! track, “Beyond Games.” If Cindy Blackman has not established the fact that the first Lifetime album was one she particularly liked, how about a reprise of “Vashkar” then? Actually, there are three versions of the song here, including an interesting experiment called “Vashkar – The Alternate Dimension Theory.”
Another Lifetime contains three of Cindy Blackman’s own compositions, “40 Years Of Innovation,” “The Game Theory,” and “And Heaven Welcomed A King.” Most of this material was recorded in a live-in-the-studio setting, and reflect a group of powerful improvisers.
The final track on Another Lifetime is Williams’ “Wildlife.” Blackman enlisted the help of Living Colour’s Vernon Reid on guitar for this cut, and it closes the set out nicely. The inclusion was poetic, as Reid had toured Japan in 2007 as part of a Tony Williams Lifetime tribute, with Cindy Blackman in the drum chair.
Another Lifetime is a great fusion album, and obviously a very personal project for Cindy Blackman. It is also a fine tribute to an incredibly gifted drummer — a man who left us far too early.