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Meet Maurice Edwards

Meet Maurice Edwards
Tessa Souter and Andrea Wolper By

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It gave new meaning to the word "dive." I wouldn't go into the bathroom without a tetanus shot. But I saw some serious sets there. —Maurice Edwards
We think every Super Fan column is special, but this one has a couple of firsts: a flat out refusal to answer a question, and some strong language. We love it! Maurice Edwards caught the jazz bug at an age when he was too young to fully understand it, yet he was so determined to "crack the code" that he took on jazz like a course of study. It's no surprise that someone with that level of commitment has some very strongly held opinions.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Harlem, and spent most of my life there, except for twelve years on Roosevelt Island. My childhood was no different than most people's. The only difference was that while other people were listening to pop, I was listening to jazz.

I've been a computer programmer for the New York City Department of Education for almost twenty-nine years. It has its positive moments, but it's not something I live for, like music.

Was there one album or experience that was your doorway to jazz?
It wasn't one thing; it was a process that began when I was eight or nine years old and heard Gillespiana, which piqued my interest. I guess it was the first time I'd ever heard a big band on a recording. And the arrangements were cool! I can't explain why they were cool, but they hit a nerve.

As time went on I heard albums by Carmen McRae, Gloria Lynne, and Clifford Brown, which increased my level of interest. There was this one Gloria Lynne tune, "Joey, Joey, Joey." So I'm thinking to myself, "Well, it's about a guy named Joey." She goes on singing about him, backed up by a trio and a few horns, and her phrasing is great. I heard that song numerous times. My parents loved Gloria Lynne to death. Plus another song where she sings about how she's "All Alone by the telephone" with such conviction, it was like, "Okay, I believe you—you're all alone by the telephone!"

At the age of 14, I made the decision to make a genuine effort to learn as much about the music as I could. This decision was based on three exceptional recordings: Red Clay by Freddie Hubbard; Gula Matari by Quincy Jones, and Grant Green's Green is Beautiful. After hearing those, I decided that this was a road I had to go down.

For the next three years it was a struggle, because it wasn't like I got it when I heard those three recordings. There were setbacks, and a huge learning curve I had to overcome. I heard some recordings I didn't get at all. There were times when I'd get the theme, but the improvisation left me cold, and sometimes it was the reverse: the theme wasn't much, but the improvisation reached me.

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