Teddy Edwards was an unsung hero of magnificent ramifications---not only a jazz musician who played a tremendous amount of tenor saxophone, but an arranger, writer, composer and lyricist, died of cancer. Edwards was a cornerstone of the Los Angeles Central Avenue jazz club history. Club Alabam, Dunbar Hotel, Clark Hotel, The Plantation, were the club scenes for Edwards' playing after arriving here in post WW II.
He came here in 1945 from Jackson, Mississippi and played with everyone on the “Avenue”: Gerald Wilson, Milt Jackson, Curtis Counts, Gerald Wiggins, Carl Perkins, Art Farmer, Howard McGhee, Harold Land, and Charlie Parker.
His rising star illuminated in the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Band writing the classic ”Sunset Eyes,” recorded at the California Club on Western Avenue. Edwards traveled the world over making many friends and recorded live albums in Paris at Club Deville and at Shelly’s Manne-Hole with Ray Brown, Milt Jackson, and Monty Alexander. You had to hear hear his dynamic solo on Gerald Wilson’s “Viva Tirado” from the album Moment of Truth ---it’s the fire underneath the entire orchestra.
Recently at the American Federation of Musicians Local 47, a benefit brought out the following musicians who paid tribute to Edwards: Garnett Brown, Barbara Morrison, Ernie Andrews, Ernie Fields, Phil Upchurch, Kenny Burrell, Alphonse Mouzon, Spanky Wilson, among many. Seated in a wheelchair, he smiled and waved as he enjoyed every note played. Art Hillery, Teddy’s Homeboy from Jackson had this to say, “Teddy had just that big sound”. L.A. legend Buddy Collette said, “Teddy was known for his originality and always went his own direction and always wanted to prove something.”
Teddy was always up, full of fun, liked to play golf, tell jokes and loved reminiscing about the good old days playing the old clubs on the “Avenue” and on the Westside---The Zebra Lounge, Marty’s, Parisian Room, The Sands, Pied Piper, Memory Lane, Caribbean, and The Tiki.
Edwards later showcased his Brasstring Ensemble orchestra at Jazz at Drew, Angel City Jazz, and the Central Avenue Concerts displaying his writing, arranging, and composing. There are many cds and albums available that will forever maintain his legacy.
Teddy Edwards has been a blessed man with his health for the last thirty years after having part of his stomach removed in the 70’s. In February he reflected on his long battle with cancer, saying, “I’m starting to agree with Marshall Royal. He said 75 years was a long enough life. After that, you’re just trying to hold on with all the doctors and medicine". Edwards had just turned 78 years old on April 26. And in his words, “I managed to live within my means. I lived very moderately and was able to survive with a certain amount of comfortI didn’t need everything in the world.”
He was a was straightforward man, dap, hip, and a swinging saxophonist who knew how to create eargasms of ecstatic jazz joy. Hopefully, there will be a Jazz Walk of Fame along Central Avenue and Teddy Edwards' name and Tenor Sax impression will be immortalized. A symbol to the young musicians that Los Angeles Jazz Heritage began on the “Avenue”, and Teddy was one of the pioneers who left his mark as the first Bebop tenor on record.
A Fireside Chat with Teddy Edwards
Teddy Edwards: Major Player on the West Coast Scene