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Song of the Day: Cindy Blackman on drums

Guitars rock—pretty much by definition—as Lenny Kravitz demonstrates in this video, but check out the drummer (and her awesome ‘fro):

(The video was done by Mark Romanek, a terrific music video director whose other work includes Michael and Janet Jackson’s “Scream” and Madonna’s “Bedtime Story.”)

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program for an interlude of political correctness: amongst all the things to take pleasure from in this musical video—above and beyond the drummer’s mad skills—are its rejection of some of the divisions of recent music: a black man who rocks out big time; and a female drummer. I mean, female bass players, sure, but how many female drummers do we see? And, no, Sheila E. doesn’t count—she’s a percussionist.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program…

Another Kravitz video—if you can take your eyes of the pulchritudinous American women, notice how even the white guitarist has a ‘fro in this one. That drummer’s style is irresistible:

One last Lenny:

(A fine video. Directed by Paul Hunter, showing how to make a relatively straightforward “band plays and audience dances” vid that has some real style and verve.)

The drummer in all these videos is Cindy Blackman. While she’s widely known for her terrific work with Kravitz, as seen here—providing a solid beat that powers this rock and also rolls with a rich variety of styles and real rhythmic complexity—much of her recording has been in the jazz world, under her own name and with a host of other artists. Blackman cites Miles Davis’ drummer Tony Williams as her main influence, and I think if you haul out the Lenny Kravitz albums and listen carefully to the drumming, you can hear that influence at work.

New York Times music critic Jon Pareles is another fan of her work with Kravitz: “Cindy Blackman on drums could switch from the splashy, sludgy style of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Mitch Mitchell to the casual economy of Ringo Starr to the crisp repetitions of James Brown’s funky drummers.”

Mike Zwerin, one of Miles’ drummers and a prominent jazz critic (writing for Village Voice and the International Herald Tribune), noted that “her strength is a variety of texture rather than one particularly evident style. She plays hard softly, aggressive but supportive, distinctive without encroaching.”

Earlier this year, Blackman released her latest album, Another Lifetime, to strong reviews. The talented line-up assisting Blackman on this album includes Vernon Reid, former front-man for Living Color.

Other Blackman releases include A Lil’ Somethin’ Somethin’: The Best of the Muse Years, Works on Canvas, and In the Now. She also has an instructional DVD, Multiplicity: Cindy Blackman’s Drum World. Ravi Coltrane, son of John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane, is a fixture on Blackman’s albums. You can review other works by Cindy Blackman on

I discovered Cindy Blackman through the Lenny Kravitz videos, and so I chose to introduce her the same way. But here she is, doing her own thing in an instructional session from the 2008 Chicago Drum Show

And here, in a drum solo from a performance with Antoine Roney, Mark Cary & Rashaan Carter:

And there are lots more video clips of Blackman performing available through YouTube. Joe Bob Briggs says, “Check it out.”

Filed under: Song of the Day, , , ,

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows


is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, cinéaste, and former poet. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.


What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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