A Fireside Chat with Teddy Edwards
TE: Well, when the War ended in '46, it shut down. It went down the drain. I was in San Francisco with Howard and when we got back to Los Angeles, the bottom had dropped out that fast. I was there for six weeks. We were in San Francisco for six weeks.
AAJ: A month and a half.
TE: Yeah, and the bottom fell out because the War ended. The bottom fell out. We got back and nobody was working and the clubs were shutting down and there were some rough years, from '47 to '48. Wardell and I, Sonny Criss, we were splitting ten dollar gigs. I would come play on the gig with them or they would play with me. It was just for a little ten dollars. It was album money. The bottom really fell out. And then it picked up a little bit later on, but it never got back to that level. The only way it could be to that level again would be a War and we can't stand a World War III. The country was at its highest tempo during that time. That was the most creative period in music, clothing, dancing, and everything. The middle Forties was the most creative period in history because everything was at its highest tempo. Everything was moving. The country was moving. People were moving across the country back and forth. Musicians were going from this band to that band. When they would draft guys, they would have to change guys and it was just a fantastic period. It can never happen again. It was not written about.
AAJ: When jazz historians refer to West Coast jazz, they are making mention of white musicians like Chet Baker, Russ Freeman, Dave Brubeck, Shelly Manne, Art Pepper, and Gerry Mulligan.
TE: Well, let me explain something to you, Fred, on why that came about. You see, Dick Bork at Pacific Jazz, Wardell Gray and I made his first record for him for free. He brought a trumpet player up to Salinas, California. He was a hippie type guy, who could play little on the trumpet, but somehow, Dick Bork wanted to record him. I did a five saxophone arrangement for one of my songs called, "Before Dawn," that he recorded and that was his first venture into recording. Later on, when he decided to start Pacific Jazz label, I was working at the Lighthouse. I was the star of the Lighthouse. I'm the one that made the Lighthouse big. I worked there from '49, up until '52. He came down and he chose guys out of the group and didn't choose me. I couldn't understand it. I said, "I'm the star down here and he's going to overlook me?" He chose mostly white players. I hate the term, black and white players, but that's reality. He didn't use any black players.
He used Chico Hamilton because Chico Hamilton made the first record with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker on speculation. They gave each one of those guys their own record date after that and then they got paid. Then he used Buddy Collette on a couple of things, but other than that, he didn't use any of us and we were over here hitting hard on the Avenue and on the east side and the west side. He didn't want the hard players. He wanted the soft players and I think the reason for that was most of the records coming out of New York were black musicians, the jazz records, except a few like Stan Getz or Zoot Sims, a few exceptions. I think he was trying to use that as an antidote to the way they were doing music back there. I have told people through the years that jazz from the East was heavy and black and out of the West was light and white (laughing). We were here, Fred. We were playing. In fact, I went unrecorded for ten years. Some of my best years, I went unrecorded. I went unrecorded from '48 to '58.
I made only one record in between there and that was with Clifford Brown and Max Roach. I came back here from San Francisco and Max asked me to come and finish the engagement at the California Club and that is where we recorded "Sunset Eyes," my most famous composition. I wrote it in '48. That has been my classic. In fact, I just recorded it again, recently with James Moody and Oscar Brashear and it is coming out in October. He had a great collection of people on this recording, Kenny Burrell, Cedar Walton, Willie Jones, Jr. III. Moody played the hell out of it.
AAJ: What label will that be released on?
TE: Mack Avenue Records, coming out of Seattle. It's Stix Hooper's record label and he has got a song with Shirley Horn, Jon Hendricks, Ernie Andrews. He has got a great compilation of people on this recording. He is very happy about it and should be released some time in October.