There's a famous story about how Lester Young, after listening to a young saxophonist play an overlong, blustery, cliché-riddled solo, looked at him and said, "Yeah, but can you sing me a song?" Leave it to Pres to get to the heart of the matter with a sentence whose very conciseness underscores his point. Teddy Edwards’ latest disc, Smooth Sailing,
is a fine example of economical playing and arrangement. The saxophonist is joined by pianist Richard Wyands, bassist Ray Drummond, and drummer Chip White.
The disc jumps right out of the box with an up-tempo original, "Going Home." Edwards takes a strong, inventive solo, relentlessly mining the music and pulling out ideas to build upon. On the bluesy, soulful ballad "All Too Soon," Edwards' measured, mournful phrasing hits every note on point, right through to the climbing statement at the end. "Hank's Tune" is an unadorned, mid-tempo tune with crisp solo turns by Edwards, White and Drummond. "Indian Summer" is a wafting tropical breeze of a tune. After playing off of the theme, pianist Wyands takes a solo while White chops away at the drums. Drummond's bass work brightens "It's the Talk of the Town," where his tender plucked solo forms the bridge, and then he switches to the bow at the end. "Smooth Sailing," the title track, is an ideal piece for ending a live set, with the band in synch and clearly having a good time. Edwards and Drummond open "Polka Dota and Moonbeams" with a duet on the theme, then Wyands and White fall in to round out the disc's lovely closer.
Pianist Richard Wyands is deft and inventive; drummer Chip White ranges from thunderous playing during his solos to lovely brushed whispers on ballads. Ray Drummond provides his usual deep, steady groove on bass. When Edwards plays he seems to sing through his horn, playing with a light tone that, for lack of a better term, frequently lands on the alto side of tenor-like Lester Young. Rather than trying to impress the listener with how good he is, he simply delivers. Edwards, now approaching 80 years old, shows on Smooth Sailing
that he's as formidable a sax man as ever. More power to any septuagenerian who swings.
Note: this review originally appeared in All About Jazz: New York .
Personnel: Ray Drummond - Bass;
Richard Wyands - Piano;
Teddy Edwards - Sax (Tenor);
Chip White - Drums.