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When Cindy Blackman took an insult from another musician directed toward her and the late, great drum virtuoso Tony Williams, she got even. She decided that the best revenge would not be to snipe back, but instead to put together a band featuring guitarists Mike Stern and Vernon Reid, tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, and other like-minded souls to recapture the power and glory of Williams' Lifetime band, the seminal group of jazz-rock.
Does everything work to perfection on Another Lifetime? More works here than not, but it's not entirely flawless. Rock, bop, and free jazz are all well represented here on an album of jazz without a safety net. Blackman isn't interested in playing like Williams; instead, she pays homage rather than mechanically trying to imitate the man Miles Davis called, "the fire, the creative spark" of his classic 1960s quintet.
Stern doesn't shy from playing some ugly guitar riffs. He shreds the strings mercilessly while Doug Carn's organ oozes in and out. Blackman's "singing" isn't a strength (neither were the times Williams took a vocal turn), but it still fits into Another Lifetime's uncompromising vision.
Blackman beats the hell out of her drum kit as she plays with a controlled fury. She can go from flash and dash to showing off her considerable skills, and trots out plenty of technique over the eleven songs recorded over a four-year period with different line-ups. The bulk of album pairs Blackman with Stern, Carn, and bassist Benny Rietveld through three takes of Carla Bley's "Vashkar," doubling back to it on "Vashkar Reprise" and wrapping things up with "VashkarThe Alternate Dimension Theory." Reid bends, distorts, and tears the roof off on "Wildlife," while Patrice Rushen (on Fender Rhodes and synthesizer) aptly answers the question of what she's been up to since her hit with "Forget Me Nots."
Putting aside preconceived notions of what Tony Williams' Lifetime might sound like in 2010, Blackman's sonic explorations take jazz-rock beyond where the late drummer envisioned it when he was putting heads to bed with guitarist John McLaughlin, bassist Jack Bruce and organist Larry Young, providing the jet fuel that powered his own propulsive playing. If Another Lifetime doesn't quite herald the second coming of the jazz-rock movement (Blackman, like Williams, rejects the term "fusion" as a weak word), it does prove there is quite a bit of vitality left in it and Blackman is well-positioned to lead its rebirth. Fusion is dead. Jazz-rock as performed by Williams, and now Blackman, is very much alive and well.
Track Listing: 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.
Personnel: Cindy Blackman: drums, vocals, spoken word; Doug Carn: organ (1-4, 6. 7, 9); Benny Rietveld: bass (1-4, 6, 7, 9); Mike Stern: guitar (1-4, 6, 7, 9); Carlton Holmes: synthesizer (5, 10); Fionn O Lochlainn: guitar (5, 10); Joe Lovano: tenor sax (8); Vernon Reid: guitar (11); Patrice Rushen: Fender Rhodes and synthesizer (11); David Santos: bass (11).