Basic Background Info
Cindy Blackman is best known as Lenny Kravitz's solid, dependable, rocking drummer for eleven years. But in 2004, Cindy left Kravitz to pursue jazz, preferably in small, intimate clubs ñ a far cry from stadium tours with Lenny Kravitz.
Cindy Blackman was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, but lived in Connecticut for most of her childhood. Her "dad loved jazz, especially Miles Davis and Ahmad Jamal, and [her] mum was a classical violinist so [she] was able to see and hear orchestras perform from an early age. [Her] older sister was into the rock and funk thing... [Her] older brother loved jazz too... [Her] sister had the current pop music of that time, so [she] got to listen to so many different types of music when [she] was growing up."
Cindy Blackman remembered her first experience on a drum set fondly. "The great thing about drums is that anyone can get on them and immediately make a sound - it might be a bad sound, but then you can start refining it. I was pretty satisfied the first time I played a kit - prior to that I was just banging boxes. I used to tap out rhythms, mimicking what I thought I was hearing on records - I'm not sure how accurate it was, though!"
In school, Cindy Blackman joined the concert and jazz bands, and she played both timpani and lead snare drum. Although Cindy Blackman didn't take any lessons outside of school, Cindy participated in a fife and drum corps where learning technical rudiments was very much like taking lessons. Cindy Blackman's mother didn't allow her to play at bars or clubs, so Cindy played at high school and college functions. Her good friend, the bass player, practiced with Cindy and taught her to develop a good relationship within the rhythm section of a band. "The bass player is your closest link with the rest of the band and one of your jobs as the drummer is to link all the other players together. Bass and drums is the first link - it's the foundation - and it's an extremely important bond that has to be cultivated."
Cindy studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston for eighteen months. "As an environment, it was very healthy having a scene with that many people definitely makes you stronger as a musician." Cindy Blackman then moved to New York, where she hoped to make it playing jazz. "For the kind of music that I wanted to play, New York was, and still is the ultimate forum." While in New York, Cindy met many of her heroes Art Blakely, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, and Billiy Higgins.
In 1993, a mutual friend connected Cindy Blackman and Lenny Kravitz when Lenny was looking for a drummer. She flew to Los Angeles for the audition and stayed and recorded "Are You Gonna Go My Way" and shot a video with Lenny. To be fair, Cindy Blackman wasn't familiar with Lenny or his work, but their mutual friend told her that he heard drums for their tone like she did and she was immediately interested. Cindy Blackman actually played for Lenny over the phone before flying to the audition.
Cindy Blackman toured with Lenny for eleven years. Cindy Blackman admitted that she had no idea what she was getting in to when she auditioned. "I had no idea of the level he performed at in terms of venues, or the amount of shows he played, and when I first went out to Los Angeles I thought it would end up being just a few gigs. Lenny used to laugh at me saying, 'Cindy, you had no idea what was going to happen, did you?'" Cindy loved playing live performances and said she got butterflies before each performance.
During Cindy Blackman's tenure with Lenny, she continued pursuing jazz on her own and with her own creative jazz band. "It's great having two totally different things on the go, and it keeps me fresh. One plays off the other well." Nonetheless, in 2004, Cindy Blackman left Kravitz to give jazz her undivided attention. That year Cindy Blackman released her seventh solo album. "Jazz is my heart, it's my love, and I've never left jazz in mind or spirit."
Cindy Blackman's work, whether with Kravitz, small jazz bands, or on her own, consistently receives glowing praise. Jon Pareles of The New York Times said about her performances 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 Browns funky drummers." Mike Zwerin of the International Herald Tribune said, "Some drummers act, some react. Some keep time, others create it. Cindy Blackman is among the few who can... Her strength is a variety of texture rather than one particularly evident style. She plays hard softly, aggressive but supportive, distinctive without encroaching." And Talking Drum said, "You can be assured that Ms. Blackman will be around for a long time to come."
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