Teddy Edwards was, with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray, the top young tenor of the late '40s. Unlike the other two, he chose to remain in Los Angeles and has been underrated through the years but remained in prime form well into his 70s. Early on, he toured with Ernie Fields' Orchestra, moving to L.A. in 1945 to work with Roy Milton as an altoist. Edwards switched to tenor when he joined Howard McGhee's band and was featured in many jam sessions during the era, recording "The Duel" with Dexter Gordon in 1947. A natural-born leader, Edwards did work briefly with Max Roach & Clifford Brown (1954), Benny Carter (1955), and Benny Goodman (1964), and he recorded in the 1960s with Milt Jackson and Jimmy Smith. But it was his own records -- for Onyx (1947-1948), Pacific Jazz, Contemporary (1960-1962), Prestige, Xanadu, Muse, SteepleChase, Timeless, and Antilles -- that best displayed his playing and writing; "Sunset Eyes" is Edwards' best-known original.
|Teddy Edwards circa 1995 Still frame from video by Kirsten Reynen |
TEDDY EDWARDS BIOGRAPHY (1924-1980s)
by Peter and Greetje Huijts
THEODORE MARCUS “TEDDY” EDWARDS
Theodore Marcus "Teddy" Edwards was born on April 26, 1924 in Jackson, Mississippi to a musical family.His grandfather, Henry C. Reed, played the bass and his father, Bruce Edwards, trombone, violin and reed instruments. Under these circumstances it was quite obvious that Teddy started to play very young, at first alto saxophone and later clarinet. His uncle, Frenod Reed, sent for him to come to Detroit to live because he felt he would have better opportunities to develop his talents. Immediately he began working up and down the ill-famed Hastings Street and played with musicians such as the legendary George E. Lee, Hank Jones, Wardell Grey, Big Nick Nicholas and the great trumpet and cornet player, Teddy Buckner, of Jimmy Lunceford fame and many others. Being talented as he was, he was able to play his first professional job at the age of twelve with Doc Parmley and his “Royal Mississippians.” Later he played with the Don Dunbar Orchestra and The Paul Gayten Sizzling Six.
TEDDY EDWARDS HEADS FOR NEW YORK CITY
Due to illness in the family, he went back to Jackson and ventured to Alexandria, Louisiana with Bolden Townsends’ group.After Bolden was drafted for the army the rest of the group agreed Teddy should be the leader. With this group he went to Tampa, Florida to work at the Watts Saunders Blue Room. Some of the members of the Ernie Fields Orchestra heard him play there and went back to the hotel where Ernie Fields Orchestra was stopping and insisted that he come over to hear Teddy play and try to persuade him to join them. Teddy had plans to go to New York after completing the Blue Room engagement. Ernie suggested that Teddy join them because there were due to play Washington, D.C. soon and he could work that far with them and then he could leave from there to New York.
Instead, he ended up at the Club Alabam on Central Avenue in Los Angeles, which later became his residence.After leaving the West Coast with Ernie’s Orchestra he came back in February, 1945 to join Roy Milton’s Rhythm and Blues Band. Howard McGhee, during that time, was working with the Coleman Hawkins Quintet at Billy Berg’s Cocktail Lounge and stayed in Los Angeles after finishing that engagement to form his own group. Unable to find a tenor player with the harmonic knowledge and the approach that he needed, he suggested Teddy switch to the tenor. Teddy eagerly agreed because Howard’s music was more in the idiom that he was interested in playing. So he joined with Howard with Roy Milton’s good blessings. The very first recording with the group was behind the blues singer Wyonnie Harris, which was his first big hit “Around The Clock.”
UP IN DODO'S ROOM
This same year, 1945, Teddy made his historical recording “Up in Dodo’s Room” on Dial Records with Howard McGhee's group.This was the first recorded tenor solo on records in the so-called Bebop idiom, according to the late great trumpet player, Fats Navarro. Navarro felt that this solo was completely unrelated to the Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young schools of playing; until then they were the main influences on tenor players. Teddy definitely had changed the course of history on the instrument. Perhaps this was due to the fact that he was an alto sax player and he hadn’t followed any school of tenor playing. John Hodges perhaps was his biggest influence on alto as a youngster.
Leroy Vinnegar (bass) and Teddy Edwards
Paris, Auditorium des Halles February 22, 1992
MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL 1959In 1958 he played with Leroy Vinnegar’s Quartet on the first Monterey Jazz Festival, in 1959 in earl Bostic’s band and made in 1960 a thirty minute television (biographical film for Steve Allen’s “Jazz Scene U.S.A” (composed and arranged the music for this film shown in 42 countries).
During the early sixties the California recording scene began to change and he recorded his first album with the Les McCann trio “It’s About Time,” and also his “Sunset Eyes” album. Shortly thereafter he signed a contract with Contemporary Records. Gerald Wilson formed another orchestra to record for Pacific Jazz. Teddy and Harold Land were the featured soloists with the band along with trumpeter Carmel Jones and others. The band played the 1963 Monterey Festival.
TEDDY EDWARDS - BENNY GOODMAN 1964
In 1964 he was hired by Benny Goodman to play at Disneyland with his band. After going East, Benny Goodman sent for Teddy Edwards to join his sextet, which included cornet player Bobby Hackett, pianist Vince Guaraldi and singer Marilyn Monroe.Teddy stayed in New York to play and write for the big band that Benny Goodman formed to play the 1964 World’s Fair. After a while he went back to Los Angeles and worked several jobs including the Red Skelton TV how with the Dave Rose orchestra. In 1965, Monterey again with Dizzy Gillespie – Gil Fuller big band and Earl “Father” Hines group.
TOURED JAPAN MILT JACKSON & RAY BROWN 1976
After that, Teddy Edwards played and recorded with Milt Jackson-Ray Brown Quintet at Shelley Manne Hole where they recorded a classic award-winning album “That’s The Way It Is.”In 1969 and 1970 Teddy worked for Pzazz Records as record producer, song writer, arranger, conductor and instrumentalist During the early seventies he was featured on Jeannie McWells Jazz Show for the Armed Forces Radio (heard by more than six hundred fifty million people).
WILSHIRE EBELL THEATRE 1977
After recuperating from two major surgeries, Teddy performed in 1977, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre and in Mac Arthur Park with a 33-piece orchestra and a choral ensemble.
Teddy wrote the lyrics, the composition and orchestration. Later, the orchestra was reduced to 16 pieces to enable Teddy to work the band in clubs occasionally. (Clubs such as the Jazz Safari, and the Maiden Voyage)
LONG BEACH JAZZ FESTIVAL 1979
At the 1979 Long Beach Jazz Festival held aboard the Queen Mary Ocean Liner his twenty piece orchestra was the featured attraction.
Teddy feels it’s ironic that no record company has shown any interest in recording this orchestra which he thinks is one of the most versatile and exciting aggregations on the planet earth as he puts it. He says he can’t quite understand the dilemma because we draw well, and the audience loves us. Record or no record.
TEDDY PLAYS THROUGHOUT EUROPE IN THE 80S
Photo by Tieleman van Rijnberk
In August 1980 he was invited again to play the International Jazz Festivals in Molde, Norway, Amsterdam, Holland, and Middelheim, Belgium.After conducting a three day jazz clinic at the Meervaart Auditorium in Amsterdam, his quartet (Jack Wilson, Leroy Vinnegar and Billy Higgins) was the closing group of this three day music extravaganza and did it with a spellbinding 2 ½ hours set which was by far the highlight of this weekend of great performances.
Then to Middelheim, Belgium, where they were received with equal enthusiasm. The Amsterdam performance was taped for radio and possibly will be released on an album in the not too distant future. In October 1980, he returned to Holland to tape with the Metropole Orchestra for British Broadcasting Company.
He did some club dates in Holland, broadcast in Stockholm for Swedish radio, made an album for Steeple Chase with Kenny Drew, Billy Hart and Jesper Lundgard: two radio shows in Holland again, a nine day club date in Paris, France, his own television show for Belgian television and club dates in Belgium, Germany and Holland.