Another Lifetime

Cindy Blackman

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Another Lifetime Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Drummer Cindy Blackman's tribute to the seminal Tony Williams Lifetime electric fusion band is loaded with interesting portrayals from different aspects without abject copying of the music that made the band a pioneering pivot point in modern music. New material is sprinkled in with several familiar themes or variations, with Blackman not so much pounding and flailing à la Williams as directing and focusing the power. Electric guitarist Mike Stern is the perfect choice to play the role of John McLaughlin, while organist Doug Carn grew up around this band, and under the influence of Larry Young, so together they are perfect fits. This base band plays three different takes of Carla Bley's "Vashkar," which was a signature composition of the first Lifetime band. The "straight" version is ultra-heavy, brash, and loud, with Stern's snarly guitar acting as a huffing, puffing locomotive engine, well done compared to the original. "Vashkar Reprise" is a funky variation, while "Vashkar -- The Alternate Dimension Theory" takes the melody and mutates it into a free, spacy discourse. Five compositions by Williams include "Love Song" with Blackman in duet alongside tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano for his only appearance on the date, while "There Comes a Time" and "Wildlife" from latter-period Lifetime bands respectively consist of an electric swing with the drummer singing "I love you more when it's over" and classic jazz-rock trappings with guests Vernon Reid on electric guitar and electric keyboardist Patrice Rushen, the result sounding more like the Mahavishnu Orchestra. "Where" has a spooky vocal by Blackman and swirling organ from Carn that belies its 6/8 in 4/4 staggered phrases, while Stern really goes to town on his feature "Beyond Games," solidifying the straight funk role and burgeoning presence that McLaughlin had in the Lifetime band. There are electric bass guitarists on Another Lifetime as well, and where the virtuoso Jack Bruce was included in the band for a time, Benny Reitveld and David Santos are heard here, but not nearly as mightily as Bruce. Blackman contributes the two-minute variation of "Beyond Games" titled "The Game Theory"; the comparative filler of the spoken word-based "Forty Years of Innovation"; and the heftier "And Heaven Welcomed a King," where Carn and Stern convene in a monstrous, mighty fusion swing. This homage to Tony Williams comes straight from the heart, unfiltered and exploding with the absolute dynamism both drummers have always displayed. What is even better -- this sounds very updated and not so retro as one might assume, a feather in the cap of the always formidable and substantive Cindy Blackman.

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