World-Renowned Drummer Cindy Blackman Performs At The Highline Ballroom On March 10 In Support Of Her New Release Another Lifetime On Four Quarters Entertainment
Album Pays Tribute To Her Mentor Tony Williams
When Tony Williams tragically died at the age of 51 in 1997 in the midst of continuing to speed ahead with new compositional projects, he left in his wake a drummer who counted him an invaluable mentor and close friend whose career has been a testament to Williams' legacy. Cindy Blackman is not only one of contemporary music's most creative drummers but also a passionate witness to the role model that Williams provided to her. In her first recording as a leader since 2005's double CD Music for the New Millennium, Blackman pays homage to the Jazz-Rock legend with Another Lifetime (Four Quarters Entertainment), a tour de force collection of many of Williams' songs from his seminal group Lifetime, which he helmed from 1969-1976.
Cindy Blackman's Another Lifetime quartet, featuring Marc Cary (keyboards), Felix Pastorius (bass) and Aurelien Budynek (guitar), will perform music from Another Lifetime at the Highline Ballroom on Wednesday, March 10 at 8PM.
It's true that this album celebrates him, but really this is only a documentation of the recording sessions that make up Another Lifetime," says Blackman, a top-drawer jazz drummer whose resume also includes a lengthy association with rocker Lenny Kravitz (1993-2004, 2005-2007). Tony's impact was so great on me that I celebrate him every day of my life. Every time I think about music, I celebrate Tony because I celebrate that level of virtuosity. I'm here to let it be known what that man created and how in his drumming he carried the entire history of all the great jazz drummers. He was an incredibly schooled drummer who set up the direction for me. When I first heard him, I knew that's how I wanted it to go for me. I remember thinking I've got to get to that. Celebrating Tony is not just one day or one album, but it's a way of living, a way of being-creative, spontaneous, thoughtful and diligent in pushing the envelope."
Without copying or resorting to duplicating the Tony Williams experience, Blackman set out to imaginatively re-envision some of her favorite Lifetime tunes (including Vashkar," Where," There Comes a Time" and Wildlife") as well as dynamically improvise originals that capture her master teacher's energy. The result is a session of intensity, teeming with bold, propulsive drum velocity recorded with four different teams of collaborators. The first support group comprises guitarist Mike Stern, organist Doug Carne and bassist Benny Reitvald, who appear on seven of the 11 tracks. On two tunes, Blackman is joined by guitarist Fionn O Lochlainn and organist Carlton Holmes; while the final track on Another Lifetime, Wildlife," features guitarist Vernon Reid, keyboardist Patrice Rushen and bassist David Santos. There's also a guest appearance by saxophonist Joe Lovano in Blackman's duo rendition of Love Song," one of the CD highlights.
As for her volcanic delivery throughout, Blackman laughs and says, That was my goal. I love being the driving force. It's what every great drummer does regardless of how subtle you play. That was how Tony played. He had great examples to learn from, including Art Blakey, Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes-how they pushed the bands they were in. That's the lineage I come from and love. It's a force of nature."
Given that her admiration for Williams was so high, was it a challenge for Blackman to delve into his music on such a personal level? Of course, but this is jazz; it's a creative music," she says. Ever since I was young, learning his music has been a beautiful challenge." As for choosing such a relatively small number of tunes from Williams' expansive Lifetime library, Blackman says that she wanted to include a lot more (hinting that a second volume may be in the offing). So many of Tony's pieces were incredible in their concepts, rhythmic layers, harmonies and the different sounds of his bands. So I went with songs that are particular favorites, especially Carla Bley's composition 'Vashkar' that Tony put his personal stamp on."
Blackman hopes that Another Lifetime will rekindle interest in Tony Williams' importance to jazz, rock and drumming in general. Tony kept studying and searching, right up to the end," she says. This was a man who was born a genius. He was advanced as a drummer at the age of 15, and he kept striving his entire life, regardless of what people thought about him. He was a true innovator."