Don Blackman is a rare breed of soul singer who can write, play and sing in a range of styles and excel at all of them. For those who love mellow soul, jazz piano or raw funk, Don is the master of each. He has worked with the very best, too, but to date only has two solo releases, which is a travesty. But the good news is, both releases are absolute gems.
Don has travelled the world with his fantastic band, and continues to do so, with regular visits to the UK where he plays to sell-out crowds at London's Jazz cafe every year. He's also toured with artists such as the Marcus Miller Band, the World Saxophone Quartet and the incredible Lenny White & Twennynine.
Don was in fact a founder member of Lenny's Twennynine group, and features prominently on the group's 1980 classic LP. Lovers of soul will also recognise Don from a number of rare groove classics: the funky 'Haboglabotribin', which he wrote for Bernard Wright; 'I Love You' which he sang on for close friend Weldon Irvine, and proved to be one of the classiest mellow tracks of all time; and the numerous classics from the self entitled 1982 album, 'Don Blackman'. It's too hard to select any outstanding tracks, as they are all first rate. What is as incredible as the quality of this production is that this legendary recording did not get an official UK release until last year, when Expansion Records re-released the album on CD. Thank heavens for people like Ralph Tee for their efforts for the good music cause.
If you do not know this album, and this is your first listen here, you have stumbled across one of the most amazing soul/funk albums of all time.
20 years later, and a follow-up from Don finally sees the light of day, with the excellent 'Listen' album (again courtesy of Expansion Records). Don's voice remains as soulful as ever, the CD has the expected mix of mellow and funky, and the added treat of the voice of Weldon Irvine, who sadly passed away as the album was being finalised.
Radiocafé had the privilege to catch up with Don Blackman during one of his visits to London. Don expressed some very interesting views in support of the Campaign For Real Music, which you can read below.
We very much hope Don will continue to visit the UK, and most importantly, carry on demonstrating his talents in the best possible way - by producing the very best in quality, real music.
A devoted section of the British public quite simply love Don's music; it's impossible not to love the man too. We hope that those who haven't come under his spell - yet - also get a chance to be mesmerised by his music.
In fact, if you have arrived at this page and do not have any of Don Blackman's music in your collection, you really should change that right now - you will not be disappointed.
Radiocafé interviews Don Blackman
“If things don’t change, then that’s it”, Don preached to a congregation of devoted followers at his Jazz Café sell out show.
We weren’t sure if he was having a joke, but later all was to become clear. Don’s performance, as always, featured virtually every track from his ‘82 album, ‘Never Miss A Thing’ causing a particular stir. Also featured was the brilliant new album ‘Listen’, and two audience-pleasers: the Bernard Wright penned Haboglabotribin’; and ‘I Love You’, which he recorded with the late great Weldon Irvine.
Don demonstrated precisely why he is one of the all time greats: his vocals were spot on, the funky vibe was deep and heavy, and he had the eager crowd eating from his palm throughout his two-hour-plus set.
So what was Don eluding to with the worrying words of warning which provided a somber interlude to this great man’s total entertainment policy? Don willingly opened up to express grave concerns about the state of the profession: “the music industry has gone in the wrong direction,” he told us. “The companies’ efforts are put into so many artists who don’t deserve it these days. The real talent doesn’t get a look in any more”.
We fully agree with Don’s sentiments. However, of more concern was Don’s assertion that if the industry doesn’t change soon, this may be the last time we have the privilege to seem Don perform live.
So we told Don about the Campaign For Real Music, the very existence of which is to raise the profile of great albums like ‘Blackman’. “That sounds like a great idea, I’m fully in support of that”, he told us, before concluding: “however, the music industry is very frustrating nowadays”.
We mentioned how hard it is to obtain the ‘Blackman’ album , and Don said he was disappointed that [until recently] this had never officially been released on CD in the UK (we had to pay £28 for our Japanese import a number of years ago).
However, Don still gave us a trade-mark bear hug, and we said we’d continue to campaign on behalf of him and the many other, overlooked artists who simply deserve so much more.
We hope, and suspect, he just might be back…
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Born in Queens, New York, in 1953, Don's cousin was a close friend of McCoy Tyner, and McCoy played keyboards with one of Don's main influences John Coltrane (who lived less than a mile away).
Additionally, Don's next-door neighbour was saxophonist Charles McPhearson and by the time Don was fifteen he was playing in Charles's band with Sam Jones and Louis Hayes.
During the 70's he was influenced by Herbie Hancock and George Duke, and took to electric keyboards, later playing with Parliament, Funkadelic, and becoming a founder member of Lenny White's group Twennynine.
In 1981, his song 'Haboglabotribin' was recorded by pianist Bernard Wright (Don singing lead vocals on the track) for the GRP label, following which GRP signed him for his one album for the label, 'Don Blackman' (1982), including 'Never Miss A Song' and 'Heart's Desire'.
He later played keyboards with Roy Ayers on Roy's album 'You Might Be Surprised' (1985), and with the singer La La.
In 2002, Don returned to recording with a new single release on Expansion Records entitled 'Coming To You, Coming To Me', a tune that features Tonni Smith on background vocal chores.
An album, entitled 'Listen' was released in July 2002 on Expansion Records in the U.K., some 20 years after his debut outing.
The album featured the final recording sessions by the late Weldon Irvine Jnr, a close personal friend of Don's.
This profile was kindly supplied by the incredible Soul Walking site, the leading resource on soul music on the web.
Arista 4-track EP, (Arista) 1987
Don Blackman, (GRP/Arista) 1982