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Teddy Edwards in Memoriam


The great tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards passed away in Los Angeles late April at 78 years of age. He had lived in California since 1945 but spent some of his formative years in Detroit in the first half of the forties. His uncle brought him to Detroit when he was 16 and he was soon hanging out at the Band Box on Adams in Paradise Valley. His main instruments at the time were alto and clarinet and he learned a lot from his association with Detroiters like Wardell Gray, with whom he played in the now legendary Club Congo band in 1942. As he told Jim Gallert in an interview, "we weren't playing bebop then, but it was in the air." He heard and met Charlie Parker the same year at the Paradise Theatre. When he joined the Los Angeles scene he switched to tenor sax while playing with another alumnus of the Congo band, trumpeter Howard McGhee. He is probably most well known for his association with Benny Carter, Gerald Wilson, Milt Jackson-Ray Brown, and Max Roach-Clifford Brown. His many recordings for Contemporary records in the fifties and sixties are by now classics.

Detroiters had a chance to hear Edwards yearly since 1996 to celebrate his birthday at the SereNgeti ballroom, thanks to the efforts of Bill Foster. These were wonderful celebrations which showcased his soulful and spirited tenor playing with local bands. He also appeared at the Ford Detroit jazz festival in recent years. He was a major figure in his generation of players, even though he was not always recognized as such. I will also remember Edwards as a sharp, open, and gentle person to talk to. He will be missed by many the world over.

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