Besides his own recordings, drummer Donald Edwards has played with many top jazz artists, including Freddie Hubbard, Russell Malone, Dave Holland, Wynton Marsalis and Dianne Schuur. Edwards says that jazz allows him to express himself freely. That’s important for an in-demand drummer who once was a hip-hop break dancer!

Kumiko Edwards.

When you were a kid, what kind music was around you?
Growing up, my parents were musicians. My mother was a vocalist and taught piano and my father was a classical pianist. So I heard classical music, jazz, a lot of gospel music and a lot of current music that was out, like reggae. I did the marching band thing and I’ve played funk and hip-hop.
Are you a different drummer in 2018 than when you first picked up the sticks?
Totally. I listen to some old stuff I played on and sometimes I can’t believe it’s me. But when I listen again, there are things I did back then that I still do now. So it is me. You just evolve, but the essence is somehow still there that says who you are. As long as I can hear the connection, I’m fine with it.
If you could go back in time to any musical era, what would that be?
Maybe the mid-to-late 60s through 70s. A lot of good music and change was going on at that time. People trying to do something new. Now I think we have stuff that’s being created that people are calling jazz, but is not really jazz or connected to the history.  I can’t hear the connection; it seems like a disconnect there somewhere. I’m not saying all music, but most of the music I’m hearing that’s being called jazz is not jazz in my opinion. It might sound good, but it’s not jazz to me.
Other than the drum, what instrument do you appreciate the most?
I’d say as a drummer, maybe the bass. Because I really understand the bass, being in a situation where I always have to play with the bass. There are certain things I look for and I just hear naturally. After that, I’d say the piano and guitar because of the compositional aspect of it. I can really hear songs on the piano and guitar. But as far as really appreciating one instrument and what it can offer, I’d say the bass in a band setting.
Do you ever find yourself being around a young musician and thinking to yourself, “Yeah, I remember those days?”
All the time. But what I do like about younger musicians is they have that hunger and that strong drive and desire. But some negative things can come out of that. A lot of young musicians think they’ve arrived and they haven’t. They think they’re doing something new and they’re not. At the same time, I know it very well, ‘cause I used to be that way!