Basic Background Info

Birth: November 18, 1959
Location: Yellow Springs, Ohio
Band: Lenny Kravitz
Genres: Rock, Jazz
Instruments: Drums
Occupation: Musician



Cindy Blackman is best known as Lenny Kravitz's solid, dependable, rocking drummer for eleven years. But in 2004, Cindy left Kravitz to pursue jazz, preferably in small, intimate clubs ñ a far cry from stadium tours with Lenny Kravitz.

Cindy Blackman was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, but lived in Connecticut for most of her childhood. Her "dad loved jazz, especially Miles Davis and Ahmad Jamal, and [her] mum was a classical violinist so [she] was able to see and hear orchestras perform from an early age. [Her] older sister was into the rock and funk thing... [Her] older brother loved jazz too... [Her] sister had the current pop music of that time, so [she] got to listen to so many different types of music when [she] was growing up."

Cindy Blackman remembered her first experience on a drum set fondly. "The great thing about drums is that anyone can get on them and immediately make a sound - it might be a bad sound, but then you can start refining it. I was pretty satisfied the first time I played a kit - prior to that I was just banging boxes. I used to tap out rhythms, mimicking what I thought I was hearing on records - I'm not sure how accurate it was, though!"

In school, Cindy Blackman joined the concert and jazz bands, and she played both timpani and lead snare drum. Although Cindy Blackman didn't take any lessons outside of school, Cindy participated in a fife and drum corps where learning technical rudiments was very much like taking lessons. Cindy Blackman's mother didn't allow her to play at bars or clubs, so Cindy played at high school and college functions. Her good friend, the bass player, practiced with Cindy and taught her to develop a good relationship within the rhythm section of a band. "The bass player is your closest link with the rest of the band and one of your jobs as the drummer is to link all the other players together. Bass and drums is the first link - it's the foundation - and it's an extremely important bond that has to be cultivated."

Cindy studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston for eighteen months. "As an environment, it was very healthy having a scene with that many people definitely makes you stronger as a musician." Cindy Blackman then moved to New York, where she hoped to make it playing jazz. "For the kind of music that I wanted to play, New York was, and still is the ultimate forum." While in New York, Cindy met many of her heroes Art Blakely, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, and Billiy Higgins. 

In 1993, a mutual friend connected Cindy Blackman and Lenny Kravitz when Lenny was looking for a drummer. She flew to Los Angeles for the audition and stayed and recorded "Are You Gonna Go My Way" and shot a video with Lenny. To be fair, Cindy Blackman wasn't familiar with Lenny or his work, but their mutual friend told her that he heard drums for their tone like she did and she was immediately interested. Cindy Blackman actually played for Lenny over the phone before flying to the audition.

Cindy Blackman toured with Lenny for eleven years. Cindy Blackman admitted that she had no idea what she was getting in to when she auditioned. "I had no idea of the level he performed at in terms of venues, or the amount of shows he played, and when I first went out to Los Angeles I thought it would end up being just a few gigs. Lenny used to laugh at me saying, 'Cindy, you had no idea what was going to happen, did you?'" Cindy loved playing live performances and said she got butterflies before each performance.

During Cindy Blackman's tenure with Lenny, she continued pursuing jazz on her own and with her own creative jazz band. "It's great having two totally different things on the go, and it keeps me fresh. One plays off the other well." Nonetheless, in 2004, Cindy Blackman left Kravitz to give jazz her undivided attention. That year Cindy Blackman released her seventh solo album. "Jazz is my heart, it's my love, and I've never left jazz in mind or spirit."

Cindy Blackman's work, whether with Kravitz, small jazz bands, or on her own, consistently receives glowing praise. Jon Pareles of The New York Times said about her performances with Kravitz, "Cindy Blackman on drums could switch from the splashy, sludgy style of the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Mitch Mitchell to the casual economy of Ringo Starr to the crisp repetitions of James Browns funky drummers." Mike Zwerin of the International Herald Tribune said, "Some drummers act, some react. Some keep time, others create it. Cindy Blackman is among the few who can... Her strength is a variety of texture rather than one particularly evident style. She plays hard softly, aggressive but supportive, distinctive without encroaching." And Talking Drum said, "You can be assured that Ms. Blackman will be around for a long time to come."


Album Year Album Name Album Band
1963 More Adventures Various Artists
1987 Arcane Cindy Blackman
1988 Intuition Wallace Roney
1989 Autumn Leaves Cindy Blackman/Marc Cohen
1989 Standard Bearer Wallace Roney
1990 Code Red Cindy Blackman
1990 Obsession Wallace Roney
1990 Trio + Two Cindy Blackman
1992 Telepathy Cindy Blackman
1993 Lafayette Is Here Lafayette Harris, Jr.
1993 Sax Storm Grand Central
1994 Unplugged Collection, Vol. 1 Various Artists
1995 Oracle Cindy Blackman
1995 Saxemble SaxEmble
1996 Reachin' Michael Marcus
1996 Room of One's Own Rachel Z
1997 According to Mr. Roney Wallace Roney
1997 American Jungle Sonny Simmons
1997 Black Night: Deep Purple Tribute Various Artists
1997 Flame Patti LaBelle
1997 Live on Letterman: Music from the Late Show Various Artists
1997 Passagem Carlos Martins
1997 Still Life Charnett Moffett
1997 Tenor Conclave Grand Central
1998 5 Lenny Kravitz
1998 Art of the Saxophone Various Artists
1998 In the Now Cindy Blackman
1999 32 Gems from 32 Jazz Various Artists
1999 5 [Australia Bonus CD] Lenny Kravitz
1999 Jazz That's Easy Various Artists
1999 Love Requiem Russell Gunn
1999 No Job Too Big or Small Wallace Roney
1999 Works on Canvas Cindy Blackman
2000 Absolute Benson [Japan Bonus Track] George Benson
2000 Absolute Benson George Benson
2000 Lil' Somethin' Somethin': The Best of the Muse Years Cindy Blackman
2000 Summer Days Eddie Allen
2001 Jazz for a Lonely Heart Various Artists
2001 Jazz for the Two of You Various Artists
2001 Someday Cindy Blackman
2002 Live [Limited Edition DVD] Lenny Kravitz
2003 Soul Sessions Joss Stone
2004 18th Day [Bonus Track] Estelle
2004 Mind, Body & Soul Joss Stone
2004 Music for the New Millennium Cindy Blackman
2004 Naked Truth Sarah Hudson
2004 Soul Sessions [Japan Bonus Track] Joss Stone
2005 Grammy Nominees 2005 Various Artists
2005 Jazz Improv Companion CD, Vol. 6 No. 2: Red Various Artists
2005 Mind, Body & Soul [Bonus Tracks/DVD] Joss Stone
2005 Mind, Body & Soul [Limited Dutch Live Edition] Joss Stone
2005 TMG, Vol. 1 Tak Matsumoto Group
2007 Christopher Mahogany


  • Cindy on hurdles: "Iím a black woman, so Iíve encountered racial prejudice, and Iíve encountered gender prejudice. Iíve also encountered prejudice against my afro when I wore that out. But Iíve also encountered prejudice against my musical opinions. What Iíve learned to do is completely ignore that."
  • Cindy on living in Brooklyn, New York: "Itís always such an amazing place, with every level of musical accomplishment, you can see complete beginners and you can see innovators. Thatís why I live in New York. Not only is it tough, but all the greatest people have come through New York."
  • Cindy on jazz: "Jazz is part street, part heart, part intellect. Those things change and evolve, so if the music isn't changing and evolving, it's not jazz. I'm constantly trying to advance music, make it move and change."

Instruments of Choice



Drums: Drum Workshop
Cymbals: Zildjian
Hardware: Drum Workshop
Heads: Remo
Sticks: Zildjian

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