Teddy Edwards

Teddy Edwards (1924-2003) was always greatly underrated because he spent most of his career living in Los Angeles rather than New York, but he was one of the great tenor saxophonists to emerge during the 1940s, a peer and an equal of Dexter Gordon.

Born in Mississippi, Edwards was playing clarinet and alto in Doc Parmlee’s band as early as 1936, when he was 12. He worked with other local groups and, after moving to Detroit in 1942, he played with pianist Hank Jones. Edwards also spent periods in Louisiana and Florida before moving to Los Angeles. During the second half of the 1940s, Edwards played with the bands of Ernie Fields, Roy Milton, Howard McGhee (during which he permanently switched to tenor), Benny Carter, and Gerald Wilson in addition to participating in legendary after-hours jam sessions on Central Avenue with fellow tenors Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray.

By the 1950s, Teddy Edwards was primarily leading his own bands although he also worked with the Lighthouse All-Stars and the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet. A fine songwriter (he composed "Sunset Eyes”) and a very capable bandleader, Edwards recorded five notable recordings for Contemporary during 1960-1962: Teddy’s Ready, Back to Avalon (which was not issued until the 1990s), his reunion with Howard McGhee on Together Again!, Good Gravy, and Heart and Soul (which has Gerald Wiggins on organ). In addition, during 1966-1967 Edwards led two albums for Prestige: Nothin’ But the Truth! and It’s All Right!

Edwards, who also made fine recordings with Milt Jackson and Jimmy Smith, was active in the Los Angeles area until shortly before his death in 2003. An unheralded giant of jazz, his musical talents are very much on display in his Contemporary and Prestige recordings, reissued in the Original Jazz Classics series.