JAZZ SCENE U.S.A. #4
TEDDY EDWARDS SEXTET
MONDAY, JUNE 4, 1962
CBS TELEVISION CITY, LOS ANGELES, CA
Commentary © James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved
Teddy Edwards talks about his background in jazz in the following interview:
I took up tenor in 1945, here in California. Howard McGhee was out here with Coleman Hawkins, and I was working here with Roy Milton’s band. We were playing at the Cobra Room on the corner of 1st and San Pedro. We had a fine band. There was a tenor player named Buddy Floyd, who was amazing. He wasn’t much of a sax player, but he could do a lot with a few notes! There’s one thing I do with my brass and strings ensemble where I have him in mind, how he played the blues. I remember Sonny Criss and Big Jay McNeely coming to the Cobra Room to hear us. They were too young to come into the club, but they would stand against the wall, near the back entrance, and listen. Big Jay was a better player than most people realized; in fact, he played with me in 1951, at the Dixie Club, in a band that included Hampton Hawes, Maurice Simon, Art Farmer, Lawrence Marable, Atlee Chapman, bassist Clarence Jones. Sonny Criss later told me that mine was the first sound he had heard that he wanted to sound like. In fact, about a year before his death he told me he had my sound on alto, but, of course, he really had his own sound.
Howard McGhee had decided to stay here and form a group, and he wanted me to play tenor. There was nobody else in Los Angeles that he had heard who had the approach he wanted, and he knew I had the harmonic knowledge he needed, which was important. What he was doing was closer to what I wanted to be involved in. Roy Milton was very nice about my leaving: he told me to go ahead, with his blessings. He still lives here in Los Angeles. The first club we played in was the Down Beat, at 42nd and Central. That was my favorite room of all time, the finest jazz club ever. Our second job was at Billy Berg’s Swing Club, on Las Palmas (not the later more famous Billy Berg’s). Stan Getz was a young kid who’d come by, sit in with us sometimes. McGhee had a fine pianist named Vernon Biddle; I’ve often wondered what happened to him. Bob Kesterson was on bass; Monk McFay was on drums at first, but the tempos were too fast and he bowed out to Roy Porter, who could play the fast tempos. Stanley Morgan (Frank’s father) was on guitar for a time, but he also left because of the tempos, and it was mostly Howard and me. Later on he added sax played J.D. King, who was out of the Andy Kirk band. J.D. was a great showman; sometimes we’d do those show things on record, but they didn’t work out very well. People couldn’t see us on record! Scatman Crothers had a great band, which played opposite us. The excellent trumpeter, Benny Bailey, was in that band, and a great young bassist named Vie McMillan, who played with Bird on some of the Dial recordings (like “Ornithology” and “Yardbird Suite”). He died young. There was a pianist named Tommy Johnson (I m not sure of the last name), who now lives in Oakland.
We used to work after hours at the Rendezvous Club. at 1st and San Pedro across from the Cobra Room. Lana Turner and many other Hollywood people would come by frequently. There were many clubs in Los Angeles at the time. Shepp’s Playhouse was at 1st and Los Angeles Streets, which would present two bands simultaneously. I first heard the Gerald Wilson band there, playing upstairs, while the Eddie Heywood band was playing downstairs. The Civic Hotel (where the Sumitomo Bank is now located downtown) had a basement jazz room.
I was one of the early players at The Lighthouse, around 1949-50. Actually, the first Lighthouse group was Howard Rumsey on bass, Frank Patchen on piano, a fine sax player named Steve White, and Bobby White on the drums. He was a fantastic drummer, and this was the first time I saw a drummer with two bass drums. But they weren’t doing much business, except on Sundays. At this time they were just playing on Sunday afternoons. I went down one Sunday and played. I started playing regularly, replacing Steve White, and they began to add more musicians: Clora Bryant or Keith Williams on trumpet, a trombonist named Jimmy Sightsinger. I was there about a year before Sonny Criss came. Then Hampton Hawes came, and Shelly Manne, and they started calling the group “The Lighthouse All Stars.” They expanded first to Saturday night and then Friday night. Soon I was working Wednesday through Sunday, and we went from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sunday, with an hour off for dinner. They began to do a lot of business, and we were making lots of money for them. I was there for about two years.
They started to bring in special guests on Sundays, from bands at the Palladium and so forth. I remember Maynard Ferguson coming in, just before leaving Kenton; he couldn’t play anything but those high notes! They kept bringing in more of the Kenton musicians, when the Stan Kenton band broke up. When they laid off Sonny Criss one night and hired Art Pepper, I said to myself, “Oh, Oh!” I could see the handwriting on the wall. It was the same old routine: you make the business, and someone else gets the gravy. I finally left The Lighthouse in the summer of 1952.
I was already playing on Tuesday nights at the Dixie Club on Broadway. I had written a book for the Dixie Club band, and we were soon broadcasting from there every night, for an hour. It was a very good band – 4 horns, 3 rhythm – co-led by Hampton Hawes and me. The Dixie Club was at 59th and Broadway. Suddenly the owner started having problems with the police department, after 15 years in operation. The police persuaded people in the neighborhood to petition to get the dub closed. The owner had bought a new grand piano for Hampton Hawes; he was enthusiastic about us – but the club closed. There was nothing going on in there – just people having a good time.
I went up the coast to Seattle and Portland with Little Willie Littlefield, the blues singer. Then I went into Jimbo’s Bop City in San Francisco, with the house band: Pony Poindexter, Roy Porter, a fine bassist named Skippy Warren. It was an after-hours club, where the playing started at 2:30 in the morning. Art Tatum would come by every night. Everybody performed at that club. One night, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, and Billie Holiday followed each other on the stand. Nat “King” Cole, Billy Eckstein, Dizzy, all were there. Bird would come by every evening, and then we’d play chess the next day. That was the first time I heard Phineas Newborn, Jr., who was playing trumpet with Jackie Brenston’s blues band. I remember he came by one night, and asked if he could play the piano (Frank Foster was on the stand that night, too). Our piano player, Leo Amodee, was always glad to have someone else play, but the minute Phineas put his hands on the piano, the whole sound changed. And he stopped Leo in his tracks!
Sonny Stitt was the first tenor saxophonist with the Max Roach-Clifford Brown group, but he had to go back east. It was 1954, and they had started in Los Angeles. I was playing at the Champagne Supper Club in San Francisco at the time; we had Gerald Wilson on trumpet, and Linda Hopkins was just getting her start there. Max Roach called me, asked me to come down and finish the engagement. That was a great experience, and I finally recorded “Sunset Eyes” with them, one of my best and most famous compositions which had actually been written 6 years earlier. Carl Perkins was pianist and George Bledsoe was bassist with that group; Harold Land replaced me on sax. I was immediately impressed by Clifford Brown. He was a superb musician and a fine, clean-living young man, who was just 23 years old then. He would practice from 8 to 5 every day, and when he came to the stand, he was ready to play from the first note. He played piano, vibes, bass, and sax, and he could have been a great musician on any instrument. I still remember some advice he gave me: “Whatever comes into your mind, at any time, play it. Don’t hold back and let it pass by.”
Teddy Edwards interview conducted by Paul Bullock for the JHF Newsletter © Copyright protected, all rights reserved.
John Tynan interviewed Teddy Edwards for this May 24, 1962 profile in Down Beat magazine:
Teddy Edwards recordings as a leader reveal a lamentable gap in the 1950s when the west coast record companies did not tap this hard swinging tenorman. His greatness during this period can be heard on dates as a sideman such as his time with the Max Roach – Clifford Brown group. He finally got his due when Contemporary and Pacific jazz featured Teddy as a leader on his own albums. The Teddy Edwards Sextet: Freddie Hill, trumpet; Richard Boone, trombone; Teddy Edwards, tenor sax; John Houston, piano; Stan Gilbert, acoustic double bass; Doug Sides, drums.
The Teddy Edwards show is available on youtube again
Commentary © James A. Harrod, Copyright Protected; All Rights Reserved
Host: Oscar Brown, Jr.
Executive Producer: Philip Turetsky
Producer: Jimmie Baker
Director: Steve Binder
Associate Producer: Vince Cilurzo
Associate Director: George Turpin
Technical Director: Jim Brady
Lighting Director: Leard Davis
Audio: Larry Eaton
Art Director: Jim Trittipo
Production Assistant: Penny Stewart
Jazz Consultant: John Tynan
Title Films: Grant Velie
Cameras: Bob Dunn, Ed Chaney, Gorman Erickson, Pat Kenny