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Fire at the Boiler House

Cindy Blackman Quartet Cindy Blackman Quartet Mike Colyer
The Boiler House is an upscale dining establishment in the Historic Distillery District, it is not a great jazz venue for a powerhouse jazz quartet, it’s better than being outside in the rain, but not by much. The room has a very good lay out for a dining establishment with nice private booths and a 2nd floor balcony for intimate dining. The non-obstructed seating amounts to about forty seats, the obstructed view seating, about one hundred seats. People were in the aisles; they were peaking around booths and hugging the rail of the 2nd floor balcony to get a view of this dynamo drummer who makes her home base in New York.

Cindy Blackman has made a reputation as a rock drummer, playing with Lenny Kravitz, a Princely, Hendrixian type of acid rocker who utilized Blackman’s powerful flash and fire explosiveness to fine form, in his rock-funk extravaganza’s. Prior to any rock aspirations Cindy Blackman was and still is, a jazz drummer, even her early rock influences are jazz inspired drum stylists, Mitch Mitchell, an Elvin Jones disciple, and John Bonham who seemed heavily influenced by Gene Krupa and Joe Morello.

Ms. Blackman has inherited Bonham’s bass drum technique, she has a mix of Elvin Jones, Art Blakey and Tony Williams in her free style wide ranging explorations of the rhythm through her hand, stick techniques. These are just my observations of basic influences, Ms. Blackman has developed her own style and it is impressive.

The band came on loose, as in relaxed, tenor saxophonist, J.D Allen, Carlton Holmes, piano and George Mitchell, acoustic bass, followed their leader into some heavy fusion inspired jazz, with Ms. Blackman, for the most part overpowering her band mates, she set the bar very high and through a combination of things, terrible sound, an unbalanced mix, bad karma, her band didn’t quite get up to the bar.

The songs were intricate, a blend of melodic tunes with rock and funk overtones on a solid jazz foundation with circular repetitive rhythms that drive the melody round and round while Blackman rolls on stretched tight heads with lots of bounce, so tuned to create thunder like sounds. Most of the songs performed were from her new album Music For The New Millennium (2008 Synth Sound).

Cindy Blackman is a rolling fire ball of energy and power with very fast and of equal strength, left and right hands that can produce powerful machine gun like press rolls. She attacks every song and drives the rhythm forward as constant as a metronome, she forces rudiments to fit in spaces you are sure they will not fit in, she plays melody on her cymbals and re-produces the bass lines with her open and incessant bass drum pulse, the bass player of normal jazz sensibility is not required.

The spirit, the connection between saxophonist J.D Allen and Cindy Blackman is reminiscent of that connection between John Coltrane and Elvin Jones. Mr. Allen plays in a style that is Coltrane like, with wonderfully melodic lines and lyrically flowing, sensible statements of tradition that are timeless, beautiful, powerful and passionate. The communication between drums and saxophone is due to the sensitivity and power of the J.D. Allen style and for me,that connection was the highlight of the performance.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Cindy Blackman Quartet
  • Concert Date: 6/7/2008
  • Subtitle: Art of Jazz Celebration
  • Venue: Boiler House
  • City State Country: Toronto, On. Canada
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