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Teddy Edwards: Four Classic Albums

David Rickert By

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Teddy Edwards was a formidable tenor player on the '50s and '60s West Coast scene with a warm and congenial tone reflected the laid-back thoughtfulness of the West Coast scene with enough soul to indicate he was listening some Coleman Hawkins in the midst of the Lester Young platters. His own recordings were a typical mix of originals and standards, many of which were brief enough to fit comfortably on a 78. After being sidelined for a few years with health problems in the late fifties, Edwards returned to the scene with a series of remarkable recordings, four of which appear on this compilation.

Sunset Eyes and Teddy's Ready feature Edwards' working quartet of Joe Castro on piano, Leroy Vinnegar on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums. Castro never made a name for himself as in combos, preferring to be the accompanist for singers, but acquits himself superbly with the amiable Edwards. Leroy Vinegar is, as always, the consummate sideman and is rewarded for his efforts with plenty of solos. Higgins turns in his usual exemplary performance behind the kit. Both albums feature performances of an array of standards and originals that were honed during club work, and there's a breathlessness that accompanies renditions of "Scrapple From the Apple" and "Take the 'A' Train," that indicates a group eager to finally get their chance at a recording studio. The best track is "Sunset Eyes," with its catchy Latin vamp, an Edwards original that's an almost-standard. The other tracks are typical, no frills West Coast jazz delivered at a consistent high quality.

However, Together Again! is the real classic session of the bunch. Edwards first gained notoriety as a member of Howard McGhee's band back in the forties when the trumpeter recorded widely and often; drug issues sidelined him for most of the fifties until he joined James Moody's outfit. This early sixties date was put together during one of Moody's tours of the West Coast, and it's a fortunate pairing. For one thing, McGhee is still in fine form, retaining all the chops of his youth and exhibiting brooding work with a mute. Also, Phineas Newborn, Jr. occupies the piano chair with his dazzling proficiency. The music is more harmonically daring than Edwards was known for, showing a distinct East Coast flavor brought by McGhee, especially on the originals. But the quintet also plays a quietly imaginative rendering of "Misty," which is the highlight of the session. Together Again! was a landmark recording for both men in the front line.

Good Gravy retains Newborn for a few of the tracks, but otherwise Danny Horton sits in on piano along with Vinnegar and Milt Turner on the kit. The session retains some of the wanderlust of the previous recording with McGhee, but Edwards also delivers another serviceable rendition of standards. "On Green Dolphin Street" is taken at a loping gait, and "Laura" and "Stairway to the Stars" rounded out the quiet classics. On the other end, "Good Gravy" is an up-tempo original that possesses all the soul Edwards can muster. But as good as this session is, it never quite catches fire like the other quartet recordings, and it might have been nice to have another session from around the same time, like the octet recording Back to Avalon or the organ jazz of Heart and Soul. But it's hard to complain about any session that's almost as reliable as the others.

Track Listing: Disc 1: Teddy’s Ready: Blues in G; Scrapple From the Apple; What’s New?; You Name It; Take the ‘A’ Train; The Sermon; Higgins’ Hideaway. Sunset Eyes: Tempo de Blues; Vintage; I Hear A Rhapsody; Up in Teddy’s New Flat; Sunset Eyes; Teddy’s Tune; Takin’ Off. Disc 2: Together Again: Together Again; You Stepped Out of a Dream; Up There; Perhaps; Misty; Sandy. God Gravy: Good Gravy; Could You Forget; A Stairway to the Stars; A Little Later; On Green Dolphin Street; Just Friends; Laura; Yes I’ll Be Ready; Not So Strange.

Personnel: Teddy’s Ready: Teddy Edwards: tenor sax; Joe Castro: piano; Leroy Vinnegar: bass; Billy Higgins: drums. Sunset Eyes: Teddy Edwards: tenor sax; Joe Castro, Ronnie Ball, Amos Trice: piano; Leroy Vinnegar: bass; Ben Tucker, Billy Higgins, Al Levitt: drums. Together Again: Teddy Edwards: tenor sax; Howard McGhee: trumpet; Phineas Newborn: piano; Ray Brown: bass; Ed Thigpen: drums. Good Gravy: Teddy Edwards: tenor sax; Danny Horton, Phineas Newborn: piano; Leroy VInnegar: bass; Milt Turner: drums.

Title: Four Classic Albums | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Avid Records UK

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