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Don Blackman

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Album Review

Don Blackman could never be accused of clogging the bins with his own records. Prior to this 1982 debut for GRP — the songwriter/keyboardist/vocalist's lone LP until 2002 — he was quite visible, though only as a desired touring and session hand, with connections to Parliament/Funkadelic, Lenny White/Twennynine, and Weldon Irvine. At this point in his career, he was riding high on the successes of Twennynine's "Peanut Butter" and Bernard Wright's "Haboglabotribin'," two monstrously funky cuts he penned and was spotlighted on. He seemed to approach the first opportunity to flex on his own as if he was on a mission — his self-titled album is as phenomenal as anything else his contemporaries were producing at the time (George Duke in particular), elegantly merging styles and adding new dimensions with each passing track. Beginning with a call-and-response P-Funk-style roof shaker, Blackman and friends then roll into a pair of tender midtempo grooves, where the leader's sweet and easy voice shines as brightly as his tickling touches of piano and keyboard. (Do check Lenny White/Twennynine's "Best of Friends" for a precursor to these highlights.) The first side is closed out with one of the album's heaviest moments; neither kicking horns nor grinding guitar riffs are out of place. Side two is almost the equal of the first, bounding just as freely between gritty and smooth numbers. Blackman would continue to be valuable to others throughout the '80s, '90s, and 2000s, but this is his greatest achievement, a happy-spirited, genre-blending affair that can enrich the lives of those who hear it. Can you hear it, though? That's the question. The album has remained scarce, though intermittent bootlegs and reissues (including Expansion's legit 2006 issue) have popped up throughout the years. Nevertheless, many of its components have been sampled by producers of rap and downtempo house alike. So you've probably heard some of it, but not nearly enough, and you most certainly need the full effect.


Born: 01 September 1953 in Queens, NY

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

Pianist/singer/songwriter Don Blackman, born in 1953 in Queens, New York, grew up surrounded by jazz influences; a cousin was McCoy Tyner's friend and saxophonist Charles McPherson -- a Charlie Parker disciple -- was Blackman's neighbor. Blackman played with McPherson's group in 1968 alongside Sam Jones and Louis Hayes when he was 15 years old. He switched to electric piano and toured with Parliament/Funkadelic in the early '70s. He later became an original member of Lenny White's Twennynine ("Peanut...
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