A beautiful film about a jazz legend
whose talent did not match his recognition.
As part of a new series of Xanadu reissues, original label producer Don Schlitten and Zev Feldman have just released The Inimitable Teddy Edwards, which was recorded in June 1976. The album is important because it features tenor saxophonist Edwards in spectacular, relaxed form accompanied by a sterling trio—Duke Jordan (p), Larry Ridley (b) and Freddie Waits (d).
By 1976, Edwards had been around since the mid-1940s but never seemed to be able to forge a brand image for himself as a leader. Part of the problem for Edwards is that he didn't come out of the Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young schools of saxophone blowing. He also wasn't a dynamo player, like Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, who became known for their stormy and personal-statement styles.
Edwards, by contrast, favored a gentle attack on the instrument, with a sound that was nimble, smokey and delicate. His improvised lines had more in common with a vocalist's articulation than the meat-and-potatoes sound of the day's headliners. His playing was nearly always lovely and in command but never quite reached the arresting aggression exhibited by peers such as Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Paul Gonsalves, Sonny Stitt and Dexter Gordon. The Inimitable Teddy Edwards features Edwards at his seductive best. The album opens with Edwards's own Sunset Eyes, a mid-tempo ballad with a Latin rhythm that I can listen to over and over again, all day long. That Old Black Magic shows how spry Edwards could be on an uptempo standard while Mean to Me is taken at a loping pace. Imagination is a slow burner and One on One, another Edwards original, jumps.
Stella by Starlight, the album's last and most adventurous song, is fascinating, since we get to hear Edwards playing alone for the first 3:29, providing a sense of what he sounded like when practicing. Then the trio kicks in and Edwards' lines on the standard are inventive and gorgeous.
Throughout the album, Edwards plays with a swinging soulfulness, placing an emphasis on harmony and lyricism rather than power and prowess. Like Lucky Thompson, Edwards was in a class by himself. He deserves fresh consideration.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find The Inimitable Teddy Edwards (Xanadu) on Amazon
JazzWax note: New liner notes by Ted Panken quote from an oral-history interview by Patricia Willard as well as his own 1999 conversation with Edwards. Ted's notes go far, not only to address Edwards' career history but also his importance.
JazzWax track: Here's Mean to Me...
Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened."
Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.
Finally on CD!
2016 JazzWax Review of the reissue of The Inimitable Teddy Edwards
2016 Copyright Marc Myers
reprinted with permission
of Marc Myers
"Like Lucky Thompson, Edwards was in a class by himself.
He deserves fresh consideration."
Teddy Edwards reviews 2003 - 2016
JazzWax track: Here's Mean to Me...
Amazon review by TheNoomz83
"Inimitable - absolutely!"
September 6, 2016
Reprinted by permission of TheNoomz83.
Format: Audio CD
"Inimitable - absolutely! Teddy Edwards emerged in the late 1940s as a self-taught bebop tenor sax man influenced by none of the other players at the time. His uncanny feeling for the music, his expressiveness, his fluidity and particular tonal inflections are all his. He is a school of one; and on this recording date (June 25, 1976), his "school" - featuring his colleagues, the equally great (also in his early fifties) pianist Duke Jordan (so naturally lyrical, fluent and graceful) and and ultra-capable, younger (in their thirties) rhythm section of Larry Ridley on bass and Freddie Waits on drums - was definitely "in session."
"Produced and directed" by Don Schlitten, who had done three previous LPs with Edwards (and who founded Xanadu Records a year earlier), "The Inimitable Teddy Edwards" was one of the artist's only two outings as a leader in the 1970s. He subsequently (especially from the turn of the 1990s on) became much more in demand as a leader, but this album needs to be cherished as a high point of jazz in the 1970s: a 100% organic (bucking the whole trend toward electrified and synthesized jazz) and timeless masterpiece.
The ten-minute opening track is more than enough justification, in and of itself, for getting this first-time-ever-on-CD LP (in superbly digitally remastered stereo, by the way): "Sunset Eyes" is Edwards' signature composition, one that goes back to his 1954 participation with the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet. A second version appeared as the title song of his 1960 Pacific Jazz release, but this third one is even more definitive - easily one of the best jazz instrumental performances of the '70s - pure luminescence, supple and grooving, warm and expressive, with Edwards and Jordan taking brilliant leads that mesh seamlessly, while Freddie Waits provides scintillating Latin-style beats.
Edwards' only new original here is the sizzling bop workout "One on One." It is immediately followed by the most remarkable version of the slow ballad chestnut "Stella by Starlight" you will ever hear. Particularly the first third of it [3:26, to be exact], a completely unaccompanied tenor sax extended introduction of startling virtuosity and audaciousness. He and Duke Jordan then swing gently and gracefully through their improvisations before Teddy brings the song and the LP to a close with a second dramatic cadenza (this one just over a minute and a half).
The other tracks include a lively, refreshing and rapid run through "That Old Black Magic" (avoiding any of the hokum too often associated with this song); a deft, bluesy reading of the 1929 Ruth Etting classic "Mean to Me"; and an exquisite "Imagination" (the 1940 big-band romantic ballad beauty penned by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke), which proceeds dreamily before taking flight toward the end.
Also included is a 16-page booklet with two sets of excellent liner notes: Mark Gardner's original ones from 1976 and Ted Panken's new ones.
This is my second CD of this Xanadu Master Edition series - the first being Kenny Drew's "Home Is Where the Soul Is," which I reviewed on May 17 of this year - also five stars, no doubt about it. Great work by Elemental Music bringing this series to us.
The New York Times Music Critics Survey Boxed Sets of 2015
DEC. 21, 2015
Joe Castro “Lush Life: A Musical Journey”; Sunnyside Records; six CDs
Joe Castro was a good jazz pianist in the mid-1950s — concise, cool, swinging. He was also dating the tobacco heiress Doris Duke, among the richest women in the world. One of the ways that his romantic life changed his jazz life was that he could invite his friends over to play in a nice studio over the garage. The tapes from those sessions are released here for the first time. Mostly they come from the house in Beverly Hills, once owned by Rudolph Valentino, where Castro lived with Duke; or from the Duke family’s New Jersey estate. They involve some of the great and inveterate jammers of the day. On the West Coast: Buddy Collette, Chico Hamilton, Teddy Edwards, Billy Higgins and Leroy Vinnegar. On the East Coast: Zoot Sims and Oscar Pettiford and Lucky Thompson. You should be excited reading the name Lucky Thompson — in 1956 he was stealthy and brilliant, even in casual circumstances like these — but in general this is a set of solid, genial work organized by one of the few jazz musicians who didn’t have to hustle.
Digitally remastered from the original tapes. Deluxe packaging with a 16-page booklet and restored artwork. Features Conte Candoli, Dolo Coker, Ray Brown, Frank Butler, & Jerry Steinholz. Supervised by original producer and Xanadu label head Don Schlitten. Available on CD for the first time.
DEC. 21, 2010?
Released December 22, 2010
TEDDY EDWARDS QUARTET & SEPTET INTRODUCING HELYNE STEWART
(2 LPS ON 1 CD)
Fresh Sound Records
Helyne Stewart (vcl), Teddy Edwards (ts, arr), Jack Sheldon (tp), Frank Rosolino (tb), Art Pepper (as), Pete Jolly, Phineas Newborn Jr., Danny Horton (p), Jimmy Bond, Leroy Vinnegar (b), Frank Butler, Milt Turner (d)
Reference: FSRCD 719
When tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards (1924-2003), a key man in the Los Angeles Central Avenue jazz scene of the 40s, re-emerged in the late 50s after a decade eclipsed by the cool West Coast clique, his phrasing was largely unchanged, but, as these two albums show, his tone had softened. On the first session of Love Moods, his uncluttered septet arrangements aimed to provide a comfortable setting for his protégé Helyne Stewart, a soulful, subtle singer whom Edwards admired from the first time he heard her. On this joyful debut she sings with a really lovely voice, swinging wonderfully on a set of well-known songs, backed by a superb group including trumpeter Jack Sheldon, trombonist Frank Rosolino and altoist Art Pepper all great horn players who contribute significantly at key points to the success of the album. For the remaining tracks with her, Edwards used his own quartet featuring the thoughtful pianist Phineas Newborn, along with bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Milt Turner in a fine rhythm section. Its with this quartet, except for pianist Danny Horton, who replaces Newborn on some tracks, that he made Good Gravy!, an album of mainly standards. Edwards is in excellent form throughout, bringing a wealth of experience and talent to bear on a well-judged programme.
Note: Pianist Danny Horton was not a regular in jazz circles but worked in a lot of organ combos and Edwards liked his blues feeling.
Original recordings produced by Lester Koenig
Sound by Roy DuNann (#1-4) and Howard Holzer (#5-12)
Art cover: Roger Marshutz (Love Moods), George Bartell / Kershaw (Happy Moods)
Liner notes by Leonard Feather / Stanley Robertson
Produced for CD release by Jordi Pujol
Stereo · 24-Bit Digitally Remastered
Teddy Edwards / Teddy Edwards Quartet
Teddy Edwards, who took part in classic tenor battles with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray in Los Angeles during the mid- to late '40s, remained a major tenorman for more than half a century. However, his decision to live in L.A. resulted in him being greatly underrated through the years. Fortunately, the superior hard bop tenor (who showed that there was more than just cool jazz being played on the West Coast in the 1950s) recorded on a fairly frequent basis throughout his career. This set features music from 1959-1960 with Edwards joined by either Amos Trice, Joe Castro or Ronnie Ball on piano, Leroy Vinnegar or Ben Tucker on bass, and Billy Higgins or Al Levitt on drums. Edwards, an underrated composer, performs six of his originals (including his most famous composition, "Sunset Eyes," and two versions of "Takin' Off"), Vinnegar's "Vintage '57," and a pair of standards. Although there are short solos for Castro and Vinnegar, the focus throughout is on the leader's distinctive and likable tenor. Since the great Teddy Edwards never recorded an uninspiring record, this date is easily recommended to fans of straight-ahead jazz.
obituary april 22, 2003
Los Angeles Times Obituaries
Teddy Edwards, 78; Bebop Tenor Sax Player Was in L.A.'s Jazz Scene
April 22, 2003 | Lynell George | Times Staff Writer
Teddy Edwards, the bebop-era tenor saxophonist considered one of the crown jewels of Los Angeles' Central Avenue jazz scene of the 1940s, died Sunday in Los Angeles after a long bout with prostate cancer. He was 78.
Because Edwards remained loyal to Los Angeles as his home base and inspiration rather than heading to the more lucrative jazz mecca of New York City, his contributions have often been minimized or obscured -- sometimes by the very East Coast-based players he had influenced.
Despite his West Coast address and a career marked by scattered fits and starts and missed opportunities, he is widely credited with recording the first bop solo for tenor sax, on the recording by the ensemble of trumpeter Howard McGhee of "Up in Dodo's Room," and with influencing a sturdy line of tenor players as diverse as Sonny Rollins, Stanley Turrentine and Joshua Redman.
"He was one of the first to play full-blown bebop," said Steve Isoardi, editor of "Central Avenue Sounds, Jazz in Los Angeles," a comprehensive oral history of the era. "There were people here earlier, like Coleman Hawkins, who had bands that were just passing through." But Edwards and McGhee, Isoardi said, were local. "And in regard to shaping the young guys coming up, you can't overstate his influence."
"He was known for his originality...
He always went his own direction....
Teddy had this fast, choppy sound, and they wanted him to sound melodic.
But he went his own way.
He always wanted to prove something.
'I can make it on my terms.
I don't have to do studio work!' "
"He always reminded me of the old saxophone players, like Prez [Lester Young], Dexter Gordon and all those guys...
He just had that big sound."
Up until then, the horns of Hawkins and Young had set high standards for the tenor. "Dodo's," with its Charlie Parker-like speed and jutting lines, played on tenor rather than alto, took the scope of tenor playing elsewhere.
"He was known for his originality," said Central Avenue alumnus and L.A. jazz great Buddy Collette. "He always went his own direction. There are always people who want you to sound like someone else. But Teddy had this fast, choppy sound, and they wanted him to sound melodic. But he went his own way. He always wanted to prove something. 'I can make it on my terms. I don't have to do studio work!' "
Edwards became known for a charging, up-tempo, bluesy style. But he was equally effective coaxing a sweet, burnished tone out of the tenor. "I'm trying to learn how to make love to the thing now," Edwards told The Times in 1995. "I could always run up and down the horn, but when it's all boiled down, I'm at my best when I'm playing a pretty song."
His most famous tune, "Blues in Teddy's Flat," recorded in 1947 for Dial Records, became a jazz standard, though Edwards told The Times in 1992 that he had earned $41.27 for the recording, "and I haven't seen another quarter since."
Another recording, "The Duel," was an energized follow-up to another famous saxophone pairing -- "The Chase" by Wardell Gray and Dexter Gordon. The 1947 recording pitted Edwards against Gordon in a classic "cutting session," testing the prowess of the soloists as they traded a flurry of searing, one-upmanship blasts. Ultimately, Gordon became known as king of bop tenor.
As the Central Avenue scene slowed, Edwards looked toward other options. He joined a high-profile power quintet led by Max Roach and Sonny Stitt, but when pressed to choose between staying home with his young family and going on the road with the ensemble, Edwards chose family, and he was replaced by Harold Land. Working the local scene, he also became part of Howard Rumsey's original Lighthouse All-Stars.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 23, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 ..CF: Y 2 inches; 79 words Type of Material: Correction
Edwards obituary -- An obituary of jazz saxophonist Teddy Edwards in Tuesday's California section said his middle name was Monroe. In fact, it was Marcus. The obituary also spelled Al McKibbon's name incorrectly as Al McKibben. The film "One From the Heart" was released in 1982, not 1992. A reference to Edwards' quotation that he earned $41.27 for recording the tune "Blues in Teddy's Flat" was incorrect. He told The Times in a 1992 interview that he earned $41.25.
Born Theodore Monroe Edwards in Jackson, Miss., Edwards moved to Detroit in 1940 at the urging of an uncle who wanted to expose his nephew to a range of professional opportunities. It was there he first picked up the alto sax. Within months, he was collecting a string of paying gigs. He ultimately fell in with various touring bands in Michigan and Florida, where he was exposed to hard-playing proto-boppers McGhee, Wardell Gray and Al McKibben.
Eventually, Edwards settled in Southern California, taking advantage of the wartime boom and finding his place in the kinetic music scene that had lighted up along L.A.'s Central Avenue. L.A. was a 24-hour town, dotted with crowded clubs and after-hour rooms where the space between R&B and jazz was narrow. It wasn't uncommon for jazz musicians to perform alongside or become members of R&B bands.
Consequently, Edwards honed his craft in various settings, picking up the tenor saxophone and learning how to blow hot and cool: blues-inflected or soulful. After playing with R&B singer Roy Milton, he was invited to join McGhee's ensemble, where his signature sound and improvisational style began to take shape.
"He always reminded me of the old saxophone players, like Prez [Lester Young], Dexter Gordon and all those guys," said L.A.-based jazz pianist Art Hillery, who was from Edwards' hometown. "He just had that big sound."