Drummer Cindy Blackman propels her hard bop ensembles the way Art Blakey did. With a compilation taken from her four Muse recordings (1987-1995), 32 Jazz has found an appropriate way to demonstrate her tasteful leadership while revealing Blackman’s crisp and powerful drum work. That she studied classical percussion at the University of Hartford is evident in her reliable articulation. Furthermore, studies at the Berklee College of Music in Boston seem to have contributed to the variety she exhibits throughout her projects.
"‘Round Midnight" features Wallace Roney’s muted trumpet and Steve Coleman’s alto. While the saxophonist offers some highly innovative material, trumpeter Roney remains imitative of Miles Davis. The classic piece provides an opportunity for the listener to check out Blackman’s brush work, though, which moves her around the drum set focused on creative ideas. Alongside Jacky Terrasson on "Tune Up" she propels her quartet at blazing speed. Ron Carter and Blackman trade sixteens on "Beatrice," surprisingly, right near the beginning. It’s a real treat, and of course the line-up with Kenny Barron and Gary Bartz results in an outstanding interpretation. The four of ‘em also do another burner, "A.J.," with extended drum solo, as well as one traditional blues. You wouldn’t expect to find ride cymbal and walking bass on a drummer’s album, but "Our Blues" characterizes one of the aspects of rhythm-making that we all appreciate in the end. Blackman’s extended drum solos on "Spank" and "Teeter Totter" turn loose the usual drummer’s adventure for a closer look. By surrounding herself with stellar artists and remaining true to her jazz roots, Cindy Blackman made possible this "best of" Muse compilation.