Theodore Marcus Edwards was a tenor sax and clarinet player whose career success unfortunately never caught up with the level of his talent. He was born in Jackson, Mississippi on April 26, 1924, and died in Los Angeles just short of his 79th birthday, on April 20, 2003.
According to Feather & Gitler, writing in The Biographical Encyclopedia Of Jazz, Edwards first played alto sax before switching to tenor while working with Howard McGhee in 1945. Besides McGhee, Edwards worked with Ernie Fields, Roy Milton, Benny Carter, Max Roach, Clifford Brown, Benny Goodman, Ray Brown, and many others.
Edwards had a spotty recording career. His first two albums were released in 1948, but eleven years went by before his third album came out. During the 1960’s he released no fewer than eight albums. Sadly, the remainder of his career was less prolific.
The Edwards album I want to tell you about was recorded on March 13 and 14, 1991, and is called, appropriately enough, “Mississippi Lad.”
The personnel for this album are:
Teddy Edwards, tenor sax
Nolan Smith, trumpet,
Jimmy Cleveland, trombone
Art Hillery, piano
Leroy Vinnegar, bass
Billy Higgins, drums
Ray Armando, percussion
Tom Waits, vocal & guitar on tracks 1 and 6
“Mississippi Lad” consists of 9 songs, all written by Edwards. I will not be talking about tracks 1 and 6, the two vocals featuring Tom Waits. His gravelly voice holds no appeal for me, and rather than disparage him further I will just not say anything.
Track 2 is called “Safari Walk,” and it has an interesting sound. It is definitely not a barn-burner but rather has a quietly powerful melody that carries you along.
“The Blue Sombrero” is up next. This is another example of Edwards unique skills as a composer. The first few seconds left me wondering just what on earth was the point of it. Once the song progresses past that fairly irritating opening, it transforms into a nicely done piece of music, with a touch of salsa mixed with the hard bop. Smith gets a nice solo a bit less than three minutes in, followed by Hillery.
The title song opens with Hillery on piano setting up a nice quiet blues. He is joined in short order by Edwards, and his tenor seems to have been made for this song. At about the three and half minute point, Hillery once again takes the lead with a funky, honky-tonk sound that he plays out until Edwards takes over again for the final minute.
“Three Base Hit” is a nice, lively song that moves right along. Once again we have mainly Edwards and Hillery, although Vinnegar’s support on bass is finally brought to the forefront on this one, about halfway along. I really like this one, it has a happy-go-lucky feel to it that I think will appeal to you, too.
I had every intention of writing more about this great album, but for personal reasons I think it would be best to stop here. If you can find a copy of “Mississippi Lad” by Teddy Edwards, I am certain you will find it to be an excellent addition to your own personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!
There isn’t a whole lot of information about Teddy Edwards available online, and some short-sighted person has deleted all the excerpts from this album that were on YouTube.
But if you would like to learn more about him and his music, here are a few places to check out.
Gary Giddens has a small piece about Edwards and “Mississippi Lad” on the Entertainment Weekly web site. One of the most extensive write-ups of Edwards was written by Chris Walker for JazzTimes magazine’s web site shortly after Edwards’ death. Additionally, his music (some of it, anyway) is available for legal download at all the usual places online.
Thanks for reading this.
Wood Village, Oregon
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