Donald Edwards is one of those drummers that seem to be taken for granted. He's constantly being called upon to support others, shaping moods and grooves on record for everybody from saxophonist Dayna Stephens
to trombonist Conrad Herwig
to vocalist Carolyn Leonhart
, but he's largely avoided being in the spotlight. He's only released two other leader dates in his two-plus decades as a professional drummer, and both records went largely unnoticed. Now, after serving as a sideman on a half dozen Criss Cross sessions, Edwards is stepping out with his own date for the venerable Dutch label. Evolution Of An Influenced Mind
finds Edwards fronting and backing a fiery quintet of like-minded musicians on a program of original music; ten of the eleven pieces on the album are credited to the drummer, and "When" comes from the pen of the pianist on the datethe incomparable Orrin Evans
. After hearing this material, it's hard to understand why Edwards hasn't occupied the driver's seat more often.
Edwards, Evans, and the rest of the castguitarist David Gilmore
, tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III
, and bassist Eric Revis
aren't known for pussyfooting around, and this music reflects each man's assuredness and strength(s). These qualities can be manifested in edgy post-modern scenarios ("History Of The Future"), frantic burners ("The Essental Passion"), measured swing, and mutable constructs. Tempos aren't always of the metronome-busting variety, yet things rarely feel relaxed here; Gilmore's tonal tweaks, Smith's sense of unpredictability, and the fantastic flights undertaken by each of these men see to that.
Strict time is occasionally dispensed with, as when Edwards marries his drums to chants ("American Drum Call To Mama"), or when the band visits spiritually-charged material that reaches for a higher plane ("When"), but rhythm remains Edwards' business. Mid-tempo swing fits him like a glove, laid-back funk futurism sounds just fine when he plays it ("Culmination For Now"), and aggressive environments suit him. Edwards may be selfless when he works for others, but this man has a strong sense of self that shines through on Evolution Of An Influenced Mind
Track Listing: American Drum Call To Mama; History Of The Future; Niecee; The Dream; 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 saxophone; David Gilmore: guitar; Orrin Evans: piano; Eric Revis: bass.
Year Released: 2014
| Record Label: Criss Cross