Q&A with drummer Kenny Washington

Austin Aldrich, Senior Staff Writer

Senior Austin Aldrich interviewed jazz drummer Kenny Washington about his experience as a drummer.

Austin: At what point did you realize that you wanted to be a drummer?

Kenny: The first time I heard the Ahmad Jamal record: At the Pershing, But Not For Me.  When I heard the drummer Vernel Fournier playing with brushes, I knew that I wanted to do this for a living. 


Austin: Who were your biggest role models growing up?

Kenny: Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones, Kenny Clarke, Grady Tate. Man, I went through all the drummers. I wanted to know all about them. They all had something to offer. I had a different hero every month. 


Austin: Would you recommend that same strategy for younger musicians?

Kenny: Yeah, but take your time. Find out all about those guys and know what makes them tick. Then use it in your playing. Listen to the solos, not just the drum solos but the horn solos too. 


Austin: You’re from New York and historically it has always been the place to go to make it as a jazz musician. What kind of advice would you have for a young musician stepping into the New York scene for the first time?

Kenny: I feel that before you step into New York, you have to have your stuff together. There are even less opportunities around now then there were when I was coming up so there is less work. You have got to be ready so when people hear you they say, let me get your number. But man, you have to have your stuff together when you get to New York. First impressions are the difference between working and not working for somebody. 


Austin: Can you tell me about what it was like to play with Ray Brown? He’s one of my favorite bass players and when I listen to him, his pulse is always so forward and driving that I was wondering as a drummer, how you keep your own pulse while still acknowledging his?

Kenny: That’s a very good question. I went on tour with him in Australia and I was part of the Jazz Master Series at Carnegie Hall with Ray. You know, there were a lot of drummers that didn’t like playing with him. The thing about it though, was that you had to play his time. That’s all.