Drummer Cindy Blackman has played with acts from Lenny Kravitz to Joe Henderson but it was Tony Williams, one of the greatest drummers of all time, who was her main influence. Blackman's dynamic Another Lifetime pays tribute to her mentor and friend and is centered primarily on Williams' role as a founding father of jazz-rock fusion.
The core quartet of Blackman, organist Doug Carn, electric bassist Benny Rietveld and guitarist Mike Stern interprets songs from the repertoire of Williams' seminal band Lifetime (featuring guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young, bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce joining later). There's a blistering intensity in their take on songs like "Where" (despite the tepid singing) and "Beyond Games." Stern is shrieking quicksilver on the guitar, Rietveld is outstanding on the bass and Carn adds nicely ominous and searing tones on the organ. Blackman divides one tune, Carla Bley's "Vashkar," into three segments, each one expanding on the original and ending with "Vashkar-the Alternate Dimension Theory," a gripping amalgam of fusion and free jazz. "And Heaven Welcomed a King" and the galvanic improvisation "The Game Theory" are vivacious Blackman originals in the best tradition of Lifetime.
Another Lifetime also has an impressive lineup of guest players. Carlton Holmes' blazing synthesizer and Finn O'Lochlainn's guitar ignites "There Comes A Time." Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, bassist David Santos and keyboardist Patrice Rushen team up on the excellent "Wildlife." And Blackman has an excellent duet with reed titan Joe Lovano on one of Williams' acoustic standards, "Love Song." While all of these performances are standouts, it's Blackman's powerful, relentless drumming that's the driving force.
During a CD release gig at the Highline Ballroom in New York, Blackman was joined by keyboardist Marc Cary, guitarist Aurelien Budynek and bassist Felix Pastorius for a high-energy set. The band played "Beyond Games," "Where" and "Wildlife" (Blackman added another favorite from Williams' songbook, "Vuelta Abajo"). Budynek adorned his solos with wah-wah sounds and smooth raga riffs. Cary dazzled on the synthesizer and Fender Rhodes. Pastorius was a rhythmic dynamo who laid down lines as tough as leather. Blackman played so furiously that her drum kit moved toward the edge of the stage. She pulled it back and slapped the hi-hat cymbal like an annoyed parent scolding a child who won't stay still.
The band's energy level was admirable but when the songs started to blend into each other, the audience's attention span waned and people fiddled with their cell phones as the show wound down. Blackman and the band were good but, in the end, overwhelming.
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.
Cindy Blackman: drums, vocals; Doug Carn: organ; Benny Rietveld: bass;
Mike Stern: guitar; Carlton Holmes: synthesizer; Fionn O Lochlainn:
guitar; Joe Lovano: tenor sax; Vernon Reid: guitar; Patrice Rushen:
Fender Rhodes & synthesizer; David Santos: bass.
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