On September 18, renowned virtuoso drummer, songwriter and singer Cindy Blackman Santana will release her astonishing new solo album, Give the Drummer Some. Three years in the making, the record is a rapturous testament to Blackman Santana’s unparalleled musicianship and compositional mastery, featuring 17 tracks (both instrumentals and vocal songs) that take listeners on an exuberant, compelling and beautifully sustained journey that will leave them breathless.
“If I had any kind of agenda at all, I wanted this album to be all-encompassing,” says Blackman Santana. “Pop, funk, rock, jazz – I embrace the creativity in all of it, and I feel so inspired when I play it. That’s what I wanted people to feel when they listen to the album – inspired.”
Working as her own producer as well as with multiple Grammy-winning hitmaker Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey, among others), Blackman Santana welcomed a brilliant array of musicians to her sessions, including an eye-popping host of guitar titan guest stars, such as Mahavishu Orchestra legend John McLaughlin, Living Colour’s Vernon Reid and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. As one might expect, the drummer, who for the past decade been a mainstay in the band Santana, features the unmistakable artistry of her guitar icon husband, Carlos Santana, on eight remarkable cuts.
Heralded as one of the greatest drummers of her time, Blackman Santana turns in bravura playing throughout Give the Drummer Some – check out her dizzying jazz solo turn on “Mother Earth.” But this is also the album on which she distinguishes herself as a supreme vocalist, as evidenced on the record’s first single, an extraordinary rock-funk re-imagining of John Lennon’s classic “Imagine.” Having received a “thumbs up” from no less than Yoko Ono Lennon, the stomping track (which features a wicked guitar solo by Carlos), is already burning up radio and streaming playlists and is also the first track issued via SongAid, a new global initiative the Santanas have helped launch to benefit WhyHunger’s Rapid Response Fund.
Blackman Santana, who had logged over a decade in Lenny Kravitz’s touring band, recalled how he put a new groove to his hit version of “American Woman.” “Narada and I talked about that, and we decided to do something similar with ‘Imagine’ – thanks, Lenny!” she says. “It’s a profound song that we turned into a joyous celebration, one that really rocks.”
Blackman Santana’s sparkling vocals light up Give the Drummer Some’s next single, “She’s Got it Goin’ On’” – a doozy of a party jam but one with a distinct point of view. “It’s a fun, clubby, party song that celebrates the confidence that a strong woman has,” says Blackman Santana. “She’s dressed for success, she’s got her hair just right, she’s got a strut – she knows who she is. I wanted to celebrate confident women in a really cool way. And a celebration can be empowering.”
On the epic instrumental “We Came to Play,” Blackman Santana creates a gargantuan groove while engaging in a riveting musical conversation with John McLaughlin and bassist Matt Garrison; on top of which Neal Evans adds an amazing palate on organ providing warm, textured undertones. “This track kept building and building, and things got very fiery,” says Blackman Santana. The title sums up the vibe: ‘This is us, we’re playing, and if you don’t like it, go home!’”
“Everybody’s Dancin’” is a hook-filled, deliciously vibey treasure that features a mega-searing guitar solo by Carlos. As Blackman Santana explains, the song came about following a remark that producer Walden made about her hair: “Narada loves my Afro – he said it was electric,” she laughs. “That really sparked the idea for the song. We wanted something that united people, something fun and universal that would be a joy for them to sing. It certainly was for me.”
The musical journey expands with the aptly named, ultra-funky “Superbad” (which features a sublime guitar solo by John McLaughlin) and the slinky yet poignant ballad “You Don’t Wanna Breaka My Heart” (laced with Carlos’ soaring leads). For mind-altering art rock, there’s “Social Justice” (called by a spirited and uplifting rap by Santana vocalist Andy Vargas) and the daring, epic exploration of light and shade, “Twilight Mask,” on which Carlos unleashes torrents of sonic fury.
On the hard-charging rock-metal gem “Evolution Revolution,” Blackman Santana pairs Vernon Reid’s singular talents with those of Metallica’s Kirk Hammett – and the results are utterly spectacular. And as its title suggests, “Miles Away” is an unabashed tribute to jazz pioneer Miles Davis. The combination of Blackman Santana’s magnificent drumming and trumpeter Bill Ortiz’s exquisite soloing casts a magical spell.
During her illustrious career, Blackman Santana has performed with a prestigious and diverse group of artists (Lenny Kravitz, Ron Carter, Bill Laswell, Joss Stone, Wallace Roney, Buckethead, Angela Bofill, Vernon Reid, Jack Bruce, Jackie McLean, Don Pullen, Buster Williams, just to name a few), and she has released a string of critically and commercially hailed solo albums. In many ways, Give the Drummer Some represents a grand summation of Blackman Santana’s talents and history, but it’s also the start of an exciting new chapter in her musical life.
“It was a lot of fun to do so many vocal songs on this album,” she says. “I am, and always will be a drummer, but it’s also exciting to showcase the singer side of me. I want people to have a great time listening to it. I set out to make a record that was fun and uplifting, but more than that I wanted the messages to matter. If people come away from it feeling all that I put into it, then I’ve done my job.”
For more information, please visit:
1. Imagine (Featuring Carlos Santana)
2. We Came To Play (Featuring John McLaughlin)
3. She’s Got It Goin’ On
4. Miles Away
5. Everybody’s Dancin’ (Featuring Carlos Santana)
7. I Need A Drummer
8. Superbad (Featuring John McLaughlin)
9. You Don’t Wanna Breaka My Heart (Featuring Carlos Santana)
10. Evolution Revolution (Featuring Kirk Hammett & Vernon Reid)
11. Change Is In Your Hands (Featuring Vernon Reid)
12. Dance Party (Featuring Carlos Santana)
13. Fun Party Splash (Featuring Carlos Santana)
14. Social Justice (Featuring Carlos Santana)
15. Twilight Mask (Featuring Carlos Santana)
16. Mother Earth
17. Black Pearl (Featuring Carlos Santana & Vernon Reid)