654

The Resounding Sound of Cindy Blackman

Franz A. Matzner By

Sign in to view read count
As she moved, her sticks blurred around the set with scintillating alacrity, instructionally inventive phrasing, and perhaps more than anything, tremendous bass drum technique.
Blues Alley
Washington, D.C.

The first thing one notices about the Cindy Blackman Quartet is that it’s got style. Blackman’s layered, gauze-like attire, bassist George Mitchel’s thick dreads and nose piercing, and piano/keyboardist Carlton Holms’ euro-chic, technophile garb immediately signify a departure from conventional jazz’s traditional jacket and tie presentation. Some might dismiss these stylistic factors as showbiz elements held over from Blackman’s rock experiences, particularly her time as drummer for Lenny Kravitz. But this is doubtful. Confronting a musician with such extreme dedication and talent as Blackman has, these departures seem to reflect the distinct character of her musical personality and artistic aspirations, one of which is evidently mastery of percussive possibilities. It is a stretch of the imagination that Blackman, at this point in her career, is very much influenced by anything other than herself.

The next curiosity that jumps out is the array of keyboards surrounding Holms, one deck stationed directly on top of the house acoustic. However, the final clue these cats are up to something different is Blackman’s drum set.

It’s not that many top-notch percussionists don’t haul their own traps gig to gig, it’s the fact that Blackman’s is both beautifully crafted and exceptionally sleek, featuring a—for jazz—relatively large bass, a series of deep toms, and a compliment of seemingly mismatched, dulled-bronze cymbals. A drummer’s choice and arrangement of cymbals can provide a lot of insight. The cymbal sound, like a painter’s brushstroke, often becomes the signature aspect of a player’s style. It is unusual for one ride to both “ping” cleanly and swell with a full depth of overtones, so a consternating balance must be struck by every percussionist based on the preferences of the player and the nature of each musical environment. Cymbal searches, the relative merits of manufacturers, casting years, thickness, dimensions, and the qualities of individual cymbals often occupy a large percentage of drummers’ conversations and mental space. No two cymbals sound alike. That’s why you’ll almost always see drummers affixing their own hi-hats, crashes and rides to house sets, no matter what quality of equipment the club offers. Yet surveying Blackman’s set-up before she took the stage for last Thursday’s show at the club Blues Alley, it was somehow apparent before hearing a single ping from Blackman’s wide, dimpled ride, that it was prepared to provide a penetrating ring replete with rich, rolling overtones. (This presentiment proved uncannily accurate. Throughout the night, Blackman extracted from that pounded metal disc a ride chime of such clarity and so laden with ripple upon ripple of sonorous, resonant overtones that with eyes closed you’d swear she was striking two completely different devices; an effect explainable only by an uncommonly beautiful instrument and excellent technique.)


Shop

More Articles

Read Vossajazz 2017 Live Reviews Vossajazz 2017
by Ian Patterson
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Hermeto Pascoal at SFJAZZ
by Harry S. Pariser
Published: April 21, 2017
Read Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights Live Reviews Lewis Nash and Steve Wilson at JazzNights
by David A. Orthmann
Published: April 18, 2017
Read Tallinn Music Week 2017 Live Reviews Tallinn Music Week 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: April 16, 2017
Read Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017 Live Reviews Bergamo Jazz Festival 2017
by Francesco Martinelli
Published: April 14, 2017
Read Miles From India at SFJAZZ Live Reviews Miles From India at SFJAZZ
by Walter Atkins
Published: April 14, 2017
Read "Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens" Live Reviews Monty Alexander Trio at Longwood Gardens
by Geno Thackara
Published: February 15, 2017
Read "Snarky Puppy at the Electric Factory" Live Reviews Snarky Puppy at the Electric Factory
by Asher Wolf
Published: May 26, 2016
Read "Beale Street Music Festival 2016" Live Reviews Beale Street Music Festival 2016
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: June 5, 2016
Read "Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy Concert 2016" Live Reviews Mary Ellen Desmond: Comfort and Joy Concert 2016
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 17, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!