Even without his time in Miles Davis' "Second Great Quintet" Tony Williams' legacy is pretty damn vast. Creating a proper tribute to the late jazz icon is a tall order‚ but if anyone can pull it off‚ it's Cindy Blackman.
Blackman is one of the biggest monsters in the drum universe‚ and has been a Williams devotee since she was a teenager; as such‚ she holds big love for his titanic contributions as a player‚ composer‚ and influence on generations of jazz and rock drummers. Another Lifetime captures the unbridled passion and boundless energy of Williams' post-Davis fusion recordings‚ and does it without sounding dated or re-fried.
It's a super-sized thing on the opener "Vashkar." Mike Stern's guitar‚ Benny Rietveld's bass‚ and Blackman's drums are turned up past 11‚ with the apparent goal of ripping your head off and use it as a dodgeball. Blackman is a whirlwind as she counters… well‚ everybody‚ while Stern flies formation with keyboardist Doug Carn before shooting off on his own psychotic trajectory. Stern got his start pouring heavy metal onto Miles Davis' comeback recordings‚ so he's a natural for this gig‚ and his call-and-answer with Carn on the relentless middle section is tremendous.
Blackman revisits "Vashkar" twice more: She manipulates texture and color on the (slightly) more deliberate "Vashkar Reprise‚" and then she launches the Carla Bley composition into deep space with "Vashkar -- The Alternate Dimension Theory." The latter version isn't her first bit of astral exploration on Lifetime‚ because Williams' "Where" and Blackman's own "40 Years of Innovation" are both thoroughly wrapped in cosmic weirdness. As if "Where" wasn't wild enough‚ Blackman adds a knockout shot of Williams' signature tune "Emergency."
Vernon Reid and Patrice Rushen stamp burning electrified funk onto the closer "Wildfire‚" and Blackman's "And Heaven Welcomed a King" proves that jamming on Williams' music causes unmitigated madness. The crown jewel of Lifetime‚ though‚ is "Love Song." Rebooted as a duet between Blackman's drums and Joe Lovano's tenor sax‚ the result is both epic and intimate‚ as the two masters hold a riveting musical conversation about someone they love and respect.
Cindy Blackman didn't just want to play Williams' music on Another Lifetime. She wanted to play it right. At the risk of using a monumentally discredited phrase: Mission Accomplished.
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