100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

From rock thunder machines to punk powerhouses, we count down the kings and queens of slam

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Cindy Blackman
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97. Cindy Blackman

In 1993, Blackman altered the course of her career, shifting from a Tony Williams–style jazz ace to an arena-playing rock star as a member of Lenny Kravitz's live band. After the singer-songwriter surprised her with an audition, she was suddenly catapulted into his sphere, appearing in the "Are You Gonna Go My Way" video and touring off and on with him ever since. "My job [with Lenny] is to play a beat for hours, and make it feel good, and add some exciting fills and exciting colors, when it fits tastefully," she told The Villager, commenting on her dual skill set. "My job in my band or in a creative situation is a totally different thing. We may start with a groove that feels great — I may play that for hours too, but I'm going to explore and expand and change that, play around with the rhythm and interject with the soloists." Blackman's sharp improvisational instincts and formidable intergenre prowess, on display in projects such as the Williams-honoring Spectrum Road, should serve her well in Mega Nova, a new project featuring husband Carlos Santana and jazz greats Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter.

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