EDITOR’S NOTE: As album releases slow down in December, we like to catch our breath and write about albums that came out earlier in the year that we didn’t get a chance to review but we think are worthy of your attention. Give the Drummer Some was released in September.
On this stunning album, the astonishing drummer, songwriter, and singer Cindy Blackman Santana carries us on a breathtaking journey high into the sonic stratosphere and never lets us come down.
Three years in the making, Give the Drummer Some features Santana’s ability to elevate any style she inhabits, and she glides smoothly from rock to jazz to soul to jazz-rock fusion on the album. It opens with a funked-up version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” propelled by her husband Carlos Santana’s introductory screaming leads that take flight in shimmering solos and provide the sonic foundation for Cindy Blackman Santana’s commanding vocals. The guitars, drums, and vocals circle higher and higher into a gospel-inflected chorus at the end of the song; this version of “Imagine” doesn’t ask us nicely to dream of a world where there’s “nothing to kill or die for” but compels us to embrace and enact a vision of that peace.
In the scampering funk of “She’s Got It Goin’ On,” the singer declares “from dusk ’til dawn she’s piling it on / knows just what to do / she’s quick, she’s mean / a dancing machine, she floats into her groove.” This song could certainly be her signature song. The free-floating, airy “Miles Away,” offers a tribute to Miles Davis and his music, while the soul shaker “Everybody’s Dancin’” embraces a ’70s Saturday night soul club vibe. The funk raps “Change is in Your Hands” and “Social Justice” feature the band Santana’s Andy Vargas calling out the raps, loudly demanding the changes in the song titles.
Whether she’s laying down a groove that snakes around legendary guitarist John McLaughlin’s rampaging licks, steadily propelling the tune on the stirring instrumental “We Came to Play,” or steadily guiding the unfolding improvisation of the album’s closing instrumental, “Black Pearl,” which features her husband trading licks with Living Colour’s Vernon Reid, Give the Drummer Some showcases Cindy Blackwell Santana’s musical and lyrical versatility and her virtuosic drumming.