Cindy Blackman Santana

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Cindy Blackman Santana (born November 18, 1959), sometimes known as Cindy Blackman,[1] is an American jazz and rock drummer. Blackman has recorded several jazz albums as a bandleader and has performed with Pharoah Sanders, Sonny Simmons, Ron Carter, Sam Rivers, Cassandra Wilson, Angela Bofill, Buckethead, Bill Laswell, Lenny Kravitz, Joe Henderson and Joss Stone.

Cindy Blackman
Blackman performing in Melbourne, May 2008
Blackman performing in Melbourne, May 2008
Background information
Born (1959-11-18) November 18, 1959 (age 62)
Yellow Springs, Ohio, United States
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader
InstrumentsDrums, percussion
Years active1980s–present
LabelsMuse, HighNote, Sacred Sounds

Biography and early careerEdit

Born November 18, 1959, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, her mother and grandmother were classical musicians and her uncle a vibist.[2] When Cindy was a child, her mother took her to classical concerts.[3]

Blackman's introduction to the drums happened at the age of seven in her hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio. At a pool party at a friend's house she saw a drum set and began playing them. "Just looking at them struck something in my core, and it was completely right from the second I saw them", says Blackman. "And then, when I hit them, it was like, wow, that's me.".[4] Soon after, Blackman began playing in the school band and persuaded her parents to get her toy drums.[4][5]

When Blackman was 11, she moved to Bristol, Connecticut[3] and studied at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut.[3] Blackman began to have an interest in jazz at age 13 after listening to Max Roach and got her first professional drum set at 14.[3][6]

Blackman moved to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music with Alan Dawson, who had also taught Tony Williams—an inspiration for Blackman.[7] While she was at Berklee a friend recommended her for a gig with The Drifters[5] so Blackman left college after three semesters and moved to New York City in 1982.[2]

While in New York, Blackman worked as a performer[8] but also attended shows to listen to masters play.[5] Art Blakey became a significant influence.[9] "He really was like a father to me. I learned a lot just watching him. I asked him a lot of questions about the drums and music – and he answered all of them.", said Blackman.[9]

Cindy Blackman plays at the Iridium on December 9, 2007.

In 1984, Blackman was showcased on Ted Curson's "Jazz Stars of the Future" on WKCR-FM in New York.[2] In 1987, Blackman's first compositions appeared on Wallace Roney's Verses album.[2] In 1988 Blackman released Arcane on Muse Records, her debut as a bandleader.[2] Her band included Wallace Roney on trumpet, Kenny Garrett on alto saxophone, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Buster Williams and Clarence Seay on bass, and Larry Willis on piano.[2]

Work with Lenny KravitzEdit

Blackman performs with Kravitz in concert in Chile on March 9, 2005.

In 1993, Blackman had an opportunity to work with Lenny Kravitz. From New York, Blackman talked over the phone with Kravitz in Los Angeles, and played drums for him as he listened. Kravitz immediately asked Blackman to fly out to LA. She stayed for two weeks including shooting the video for Are You Gonna Go My Way.[5] She would go on to have an 18-year run as Kravitz's touring drummer.[10]

Solo careerEdit

Blackman performing in Federation Square, Melbourne, May 2008

In the late 90s Blackman made her first recording with a working group and called the album Telepathy because of the tight communication in the band.[11] and recorded the instructional video Multiplicity.[12]

In 2004, Blackman took a break from touring with Lenny Kravitz to focus on her own music.[13]

In 2005 Blackman released Music for the New Millennium on her Sacred Sounds Label.[8] "We experiment – but it's never free. Everything is written out. I have charts for all the songs. We expand on what's there, and stretch harmonics and note choices".[8]

In September 2007, she made a tour of South America, teaching clinics in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil,[14] and on November 30, 2007, Blackman and her quartet performed at Art After 5 at the Philadelphia Art Museum.

In 2010 she released a first tribute album to her inspiration Tony Williams. Another Lifetime featured Mike Stern on guitar and organist Doug Carn following the line-up of the original Tony Williams Lifetime. As guest musicians appear Joe Lovano, Patrice Rushen and Vernon Reid. Reid is the lead guitarist on the second Williams tribute album Spectrum Road (2012), a collaboration between Blackman, Reid, John Medeski on organ and former bassist of Lifetime and Cream Jack Bruce. Bruce also sings on three tracks of the album and Blackman lend her voice to "Where", originally written by (then Lifetime guitarist) John McLaughlin and sung by Williams (Emergency!, 1969), which already appeared on Another Lifetime in an instrumental version. She appeared at the 2011 Montreux festival, Switzerland, playing drums for husband Carlos's one-off reunion with John McLaughlin, after which she helped mix the sound for the video.

In 2020 she released a 17 track album titled Give the Drummer Some. On this album she sings on 11 of the tracks. The album includes performances by John McLaughlin, Matt Garrison, Vernon Reid, Kirk Hammett, Bill Ortiz, and Neal Evans.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

Cindy Blackman performs at Sesc Pompéia on August 1, 2007.

On July 9, 2010, Carlos Santana proposed to Blackman on stage during a concert at Tinley Park, Illinois.[15] Blackman is Santana's touring drummer; he proposed immediately after her drum solo. They were married on Maui, Hawaii on December 19, 2010.[16]

Blackman attended a Baptist church during her teenage years, but became a follower of the Baháʼí Faith at the age of 18; she also started studying Kabbalah in the 2000s.[17] Blackman cultivates spirituality in her musicianship.[17] "I believe that music is so sacred that once you're playing music you are doing the work of prayer, whether you're conscious of it or not, because you have a focused intent", says Blackman.[17]

Blackman is a rarity as a female jazz percussionist.[17] "In the past, there were a lot of stigmas attached to women playing certain instruments", Blackman says. "Any woman, or anyone facing race prejudice, weight prejudice, hair prejudice ... if you let somebody stop you because of their opinions, then the only thing you're doing is hurting yourself. I don't want to give somebody that power over me."[17]


With Wallace Roney


  1. ^ "Blackman, Cindy". Current Biography Yearbook 2010. Ipswich, MA: H.W. Wilson. 2010. pp. 42–45. ISBN 978-0-8242-1113-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Wynn, Ron. "Cindy Blackman". AllMusic. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "The Boston Phoenix. "Limbering Up: Cindy Blackman's rock and jazz" by Jon Garelick. February 21, 2000". Retrieved October 6, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Stieg, Stina (July 16, 2008). "Glenwood Springs' Summer of Jazz features drummer Cindy Blackman". Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Vargas, Andrew (May 17, 2007). "Cindy Blackman". DRUMHEAD Magazine. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved October 17, 2018.
  6. ^ Stewart, Zan (May 12, 2007). "Dedicated to her drums - Entertainment -". New Jersey Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on May 12, 2007. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  7. ^ Code Red. Liner Notes. 1992.
  8. ^ a b c "The Village Voice. "Cindy Blackman plays for Bird" by Rick Mark. August 24, 2005". Archived from the original on December 26, 2007. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
  9. ^ a b "Jazz House. "New York Drummer Cindy Blackman" interviewed by Natasha Nargis. 2001". Retrieved October 6, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Walker, Chris J. (November 2020). "This Drummer Got Some". Jazz Times: 5–6.
  11. ^ Telepathy (liner notes).
  12. ^ Windsor, The (February 8, 2008). "the Windsor Star. "Drummer trades Kravitz for jazz" by Patrick Cole. February 8, 2008". Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
  13. ^ Schulman, David (May 1, 2004). "Musicians in Their Own Words: Cindy Blackman". Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  14. ^ "Report for the Road - Cindy Blackman South America Clinic Tour". Zildjian. October 12, 2007. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  15. ^ Vozick-Levinson, Simon (July 12, 2010). "Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman get engaged onstage". Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  16. ^ Laudadio, Marisa (January 5, 2011). "PHOTO: Carlos Santana Weds Drummer Cindy Blackman". Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c d e Infantry, Ashante (June 7, 2008). "Cindy Blackman's got the beat | The Star". Retrieved October 18, 2018.

External linksEdit