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Cindy Blackman And Sherrie Maricle On JazzSet

Already serious about music as a teenager, Cindy Blackman begged her mother to let her attend a drum clinic with Tony Williams, the veteran of the 1960s Miles Davis Quintet. Williams "was always the center that the group's sound revolved around," Davis had said. Blackman's high-energy, colors-on-canvas approach honors Williams and Lifetime, his series of jazz-rock fusion bands from 1969 into the '80s. Her latest album is titled Another Lifetime.

Born in Ohio and raised in Connecticut, Blackman used to play on the New York streets. She also studied with Alan Dawson at Berklee College of Music in Boston. She was known to practice for up to eight hours at a time, building muscle tone in the process. Then, for more than a decade, she played powerful dance beats in giant outdoor stadiums with rocker Lenny Kravitz. Looking back, Cindy Blackman told a journalist, "I can appreciate the simplicity of playing one beat for a long time, and making that feel so good, you don't care to hear anything else." By the same token, when she gets into a more creative situation, Blackman loves to extend her power through all four limbs into an incendiary flow on her own compositions.

The Blackman rhythm section is a long-standing unit with Carleton Holmes on keyboards and George Mitchell on bass; JD Allen joins on tenor. Just back from Australia and onstage at the 2008 Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, they dig into music by Herbie Hancock, Allen and Blackman.

Opening this JazzSet from the same festival, Sherrie Maricle leads Fiveplay. It's her distilled version of her swinging big band Diva. This spring, at the 2010 Mary Lou Williams Fest, Diva will reprise original charts by Williams — seldom played today — to celebrate the composer and arranger's centennial. JazzSet will be there.

Personnel

Cindy Blackman Quartet: Cindy Blackman, drums; JD Allen, tenor sax; Carleton Holmes, keyboards; George Mitchell, bass.

Fiveplay: Sherrie Maricle, drums; Jami Dauber, trumpet; Janelle Reichman, tenor sax and clarinet; Tomoko Ohno, piano; Noriko Ueda, bass; guest Maria Anadon, vocal.

Credits: Recording by Greg Hartman and Big Mo, mix by Duke Markos. Thanks to Dr. Billy Taylor and Kevin Struthers of the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2010 WBGO

Becca Pulliam