From Drum Magazine’s May 2018 Issue | Video Lesson And Video Lesson Text By Libor Hadrava | Four-Song Analysis Text And Transcription By Andy Ziker | Photo By Francis George
“We Came To Play” Video Lesson By Libor Hadrava

I chose the track “We Came To Play” from Cindy Blackman Santana’s new solo record for many reasons, the main one being how much musical, technical, and educational material she packed into just the first nine measures. Astonishing. These few measures could have easily turned into two full lessons.

For example, it usually takes most of us four measures to come even close to the level of energy and build-up in the second measure alone. This is mainly accomplished by syncopation underneath the quarter-note like feel in the first half that transitions into a straight eighth-note pulse in the second half.

A very similar build-up within a single measure happens again in the sixth measure:

While playing through these two measures I noticed that both of them have very similar musical roles in the song. I asked myself: “If each measure has so much energy and build-up, what would both of them together do?” The groove they created together is very powerful with a great sensation of forward movement.

In most cases when we see a closed hi-hat with the foot in any notation we rarely even look at it. In the fifth measure the closed hi-hat marks the beginning of the triplet (and sextuplet) fill. In this case actually focusing on physically closing the hi-hat makes it so much easier to feel and properly execute the fill.


In the second half of the seventh measure we have four sixteenth-notes on the hi-hat with the bass drum leading into four sixteenth-note flams on tom 1. I have tried many different ways to play all four flams. Playing them all as right-hand flams seems to come closest to Blackman Santana’s sound. In my opinion this is also the easiest combination and here is why: There are four sixteenth-notes on the hi-hat before the flams, so by simply moving your hands from the hi-hat over to tom 1 you will find both of your stick heights to be already in position to play a right-hand flam.

In the last measure of the transcription there is a great fill starting on the second beat of the measure that goes from the thirty-second-note feel into a sixteenth-note triplet feel and back to the thirty-second-note pulse. To get used to the feel of the fill at first use alternating sticking and eliminate the ghost notes from all of the flams.

Once you are comfortable, keep the same sticking throughout the main notes and add the ghost notes to all of the flams with the other hand.


Groove Analysis Text By Andy Ziker

Cindy Blackman Santana is well known for her longtime stint with Lenny Kravitz and her personal and musical relationship with Carlos Santana. She is also a first-call jazz drummer, a celebrated drum clinician, and a solo artist with a dozen credits. Through all of this, she continues to maintain her own voice. Her power, dynamic control, improvisatory spirit, and ability to draw sounds from the kit are second to none. On this latest effort as drummer and bandleader, she lays it down in a number of styles, including solos, no-frills funk, fusion, and straight-ahead jazz.


“We Came To Play”

Four syncopated pickup notes lead us into a sparsely orchestrated opening chorus, which Blackman Santana uses as a backdrop to paint thematic material and explosive fills. She employs an eighth-sixteenth-eighth bass drum rhythm at the beginning of each measure (except measure eight), thirty-second-note fills on the snare, power flams around the drums as sextuplets and sixteenths, and a one measure fill (measure nine) that goes from duplets to triplets and back.

“Miles Away”

In a nod to the music of post-hiatus Miles Davis, Blackman Santana plays a jazzy half-time shuffle. Notice the crescendoing triplet buzzes into measure one, hi-hat chicks breaking away from the typical 2 and 4, and a delicate Roy Haynes-inspired triplet fill in measures seven and eight.



Blackman Santana plays in an up-tempo Tony Williams style, propelled forward with consecutive quarter-note hi-hat chicks. Check out the interplay between snare and bass drum.


Drawing from Lenny Kravitz’ “American Woman,” she sticks with a basic bass drum pattern while allowing the bass guitar to stretch out. The fill in measure four is pure genius and super funky.