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Donald Edwards: Evolution Of An Influenced Mind

Andrew Luhn By

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In recent years, Donald Edwards has become a familiar name in the Criss Cross catalogue. His drumming can be heard on six previous Criss Cross releases, but on Evolution of an Influenced Mind, Edwards makes his debut as a leader. His sensitive and protean drumming has made him a first-call sideman in New York, but this program focuses on his prowess as a composer; Edwards contributes ten of the eleven tunes, with pianist Orrin Evans leading the eleventh.

Evolution of an Influenced Mind seems an appropriate title for this collection of originals. Though Edwards now resides in New York, he had a music-filled childhood growing up in Louisiana. These compositions reflect and celebrate that influence, but remain firmly rooted in the idiom of modern jazz. The familiar piano/bass team of Orrin Evans and Eric Revis fill out the rhythm section and Walter Smith III adds his versatile tenor sound to the group. A newcomer to the Criss Cross label, but a well-known talent in the music world, guitarist David Gilmore completes the quintet.

The importance of soul and history is apparent from the first track. "American Drum Call to Mama" is Edwards' percussive accompaniment to a traditional field holler. Edwards' Louisiana roots shine through in the cockeyed, third-line feel of "Not Really Gumbo" and the funky backbeat of "Dock's House." The group takes a more subtle approach on "The Dream" as they gracefully float through the pastoral landscape of the music. "Niecee" begins with a dreary atmosphere from the guitar but reveals its true character in its playful, Monk-ish melody. A tasteful piano solo from Evans eases the tune into a relaxed swing with Revis channeling Ray Brown's deep-in-the-pocket groove.

The knotty melodies, often doubled in the sax and guitar, weave their way through the syncopated basslines in the more up-tempo tunes like "Truth or Consequence" or "History of the Future." Smith, Gilmore, and Evans do some of their best blowing on "The Essential Passion." Edwards and Revis burn through a driving swing, while a repeated three note riff marks the form during the fiery solos.

These original tunes paint a picture of Edwards' many influences and speak of the evolution these influences have undergone in his musical career. The quintet interprets the music with an energetic and joyful approach that brings the tunes to life. Proving he is comfortable in a variety of styles, Edwards navigates his music with a subtle touch that is at once both thoughtfully restrained, and excitingly dynamic.

Track Listing: American Drum Call To Mama; History of the Future; Niecee; The Essential Passion; Dock's House; Nightmare of Fun; When; Culmination For Now; Not Really Gumbo; Truth or Consequence

Personnel: Donald Edwards: Drums; Walter Smith III: Tenor Sax; David Gilmore: Guitar; Orrin Evans: Piano; Eric Revis: Bass

Title: Evolution Of An Influenced Mind | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Criss Cross

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