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Major player on the West Coast sceneCopyright © 2003
Rob Partridge issued the following obituary on behalf of Blue Note Records:
Teddy Edwards, one of the finest tenor saxophonists from the bebop era, died in Los Angeles on Sunday 20th April. He was 78 years old.
Edwards - often credited by fellow musicians as the first tenor player to explore bebop - leaves a huge legacy of recorded music, stretching from the Forties right through to the end of the Nineties.
Born in Jackson, Mississippi, on 26th April 1924, Edwards moved to Los Angeles in 1945, first coming to attention the following year when, with trumpeter Howard McGhee's group, he recorded the groundbreaking bebop tune, Up In Dodo's Room.
By the end of that decade Edwards was sufficiently well known to front his own bands. In 1949 he was also one of the first members of the Lighthouse All Stars, the group based at the famous Lighthouse Club in Hermosa Beach.
Five years later, in 1954, Edwards was invited to join the Max Roach Quintet, a group that also featured legendary trumpeter Clifford Brown. Edwards' tenor perfectly complemented Brown's eloquent style, a partnership also helped by Teddy's growing talents as a composer. Indeed, the Quintet's recording of Edwards' classic Sunset Eyes is a testament to the effectiveness of the relationship.
By the mid-Fifties Edwards was long established as a regular at West Coast festivals and clubs and, over the next few years, he worked with such diverse musicians as Benny Goodman, Les McCann, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, Ray Brown, Benny Carter, Hampton Hawes, Earl Hines and Gerald Wilson. He also wrote songs for Nancy Wilson, Jimmy Witherspoon and Ernie Andrews.
In 1978 Edwards came to Europe for the first of what became regular visits. Among the dates were festivals in Norway, Holland and Belgium.
Edwards' talents came to the attention of a wider audience when, in 1982, he teamed up with the singer Tom Waits on his Oscar-nominated soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's film, One From the Heart. Edwards also joined Waits on a tour of Australia and New Zealand that same year. It was the start of a lifetime friendship, a relationship that also included Waits' appearance on Teddy Edwards' 1991 album, Mississippi Lad.
Says Waits: "Teddy Edwards always sounded like he was drinking champagne on a train and wise to the ways of the world. A consummate arranger and composer, Teddy Edwards was one of the original architects of bebop. An elegant man with a large heart and generous spirit, he always carried himself with poise and confidence.
"Kathleen (Brennan Tom Waits' songwriting partner and wife) and I have lost a friend, the world of music has lost one of the most innovative presidents of jazz and we all have the gift of the great music he left behind."
Despite recurring illness, Edwards continued to play and record throughout the Nineties. His schedule included European festivals and UK tours as well as shows throughout the United States. A jazz player of unique talent, Edwards will be remembered as a consistently inventive and dexterous musician.