"Teddy Edwards must be considered one of the major voices in jazz."
The news these days from the Coast is that Teddy Edwards is ready! After many years of playing in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and points East, the thirty-six-year-old tenor sax man has emerged as one of the most personal and forceful voices in jazz today. From the opening notes of this album his "talking tenor" speaks with an authority which comes from maturity and complete command of his horn. Unlike many inner-directed soloists who appear to be playing for themselves, Teddy's style is warly communicative. When he plays he seems to be talking right to you.
Theodore Marcus Edwards was born in jackson, Mississippi, April 26, 1924 of a musical family. From the time he was twelve he played in and around Jackson with various groups. In 1940 he went to Detroit, and in the next few years moved around considerably. He had his own band in Louisiana and in 1944 joined Ernie Fields in Tampa, Florida. With Fields he worked his way to Los Angeles in October, 1944. He was playing alto and clarinet then. The next year, working with Howard McGhee, he switched to tenor and made his first records. Except for three years in the '50s spent in San Francisco, Edwards has been in Los Angeles ever since.
Insiders on the Los Angeles jazz scene have always respeced Teddy as a top musician. He worked with Benny Carter, Max Roach, Gerald Wilson, Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, with his own groups, and on numerous records including several for Contemporary: Leroy Vinnegar's Leroy Walks!, and Helen Humes' first album--but it wasn't until 1959 when he began working regularly with the quartet heard on this album that Teddy began to come into his own.
"I probably lost a lot of good time," Teddy says. "I was going through a bad physical scene--the gall bladder scene, plus tooth trouble. I had oral surgery three times, and wasn't able to play for months on end. For a long while I didn't seem to get much action. I was taking whatever came up. Job-wise I seemed to have faded away from the jazz scene. First thing you know, I'm back in it." Had he lost his enthusiasm during these rough years? "Well, no," he explains, "every time I pick up my instrument I pick it up to play it--regardless of whether it's a burlesque gig, rock and roll gig, or whatever it is. When I pick it up, I'm for real every time."
Thinking back on the scuffling years when he had to take "anything that would keep me living," Teddy feels he "learned a lot on all those jobs. For instance, if I had a burlesque job, I'd just say to myself, 'I'll practice on this job.' I'd practice how to play the melody, my intonation, my approach to different tunes, changes, tempos. You have time to practice then, you know, because you're playing chorus after chorus behind those girls. So it all adds up. Playing with lousy rhythm sections in a strange way actually helps your time because you've practically got to carry the time yourself."
In California, musicians have long considered Teddy to be one of the top tenor men in the country. However, it seems next to impossible for a jazzman to make a national reputation on the West Coast. If Horace Greely were passing out advice to jazzmen today, he'd have to say "Go East, young man!" For personal reasons Teddy preferred to work closer to his home and family; and so, it is all the more remarkable that despite the geographical handicap Teddy is regarded as one of the very best tenormen by critics, musicians, and jazz fans at home and abroad.
--LESTER KOENIG, from the liner notes,
Teddy's Ready, Contemporary.
A selected discography of Teddy Edwards albums.
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