As part of its reissue of select albums on the Xanadu label, Resonance Records has just released The Inimitable Teddy Edwards, which was recorded in June 1976. The album is important because it features tenor saxophonist Edwards in spectacular form accompanied by a sterling trio—Duke Jordan (p), Larry Ridley (b) and Freddie Waits (d).
By '76, Edwards had been around since the mid-1940s but never seemed to be able to forge a brand image for himself as a leader. Part of the problem for Edwards is that he didn't come out of the Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young schools of blowing. He also wasn't a dynamo player, like Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, who became known for their stormy and personal- statement styles.
Edwards, by contrast, favored a gentle attack on the tenor saxophone with a sound that was nimble, smokey and delicate. His improvised lines had more in common with a vocalist's articulation than the meat-and-potatoes sound of headliners. His blowing was always lovely and in command, but never quite reached the arresting level exhibited by peers such as Eddie Lockjaw" Davis, Paul Gonsalves, Sonny Stitt and Dexter Gordon.
The Inimitable Teddy Edwards features Edwards at his seductive best. The album opens with Edward's own Sunset Eyes, a mid-tempo ballad with a Latin rhythm that I can listen to over and over again all day long. That Old Black Magic shows how spry Edwards could be on an up-tempo standard while Mean to Me is taken at a loping pace. Imagination is a slow burner and One on One, another original, jumps.
Stella by Starlight, the album's last and most adventuresome song, is fascinating, since we get to hear Edwards playing alone for the first 3:29, providing a sense of what he sounded like when practicing. Then the trio kicks in and Edwards' lines on the standard are gorgeous.
Throughout the album, Edwards plays with a swinging soulfulness, placing an emphasis on harmony and lyricism rather than power and prowess. Like Lucky Thompson, Edwards was in a class by himself. He deserves fresh consideration.
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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