Reference: FSRCD 613
Bar code: 8427328606134
Teddy Edwards was one of the top tenor saxophonists in jazz when he recorded these sessions, a consistent performer since the post-bop days of the late 1940s. Living in California, however, had denied him the kind of acclaim accorded some of his Eastern counterparts. But on these sessions, backed by three capable and effective rhythm sections, he showed he was among the most authoritative and dependable tenors in contemporary modern jazz.
The pianists all had very distinct styles. Les McCann was one of the more firmly established musicians to have shifted into the funk gear. Amos Trice, like Edwards, was a product of the Los Angeles post-bop black scene; and Englishman Ronnie Ball, since his early years under the Tristano influence, had developed a very personal and versatile style.
Completing the quartets were some of the most highly regarded rhythm men on the West Coast in bassists Leroy Vinnegar and Ben Tucker, and drummers Ron Jefferson, Tony Bazley and Al Levitt.
On some of these sides we can also hear Gloria Smyth, a younger singer of boundless energy, with a warm and appealing feel for lyrics, that enjoyed some success in her in person appearances.
A happy atmosphere prevails on these fine, long-unavailable sessions, all of which share a sense of mutual support and engagement by players on top of their game.
"Teddy Edwards, an early friend of Charlie Parker, never achieved the fame of such contemporary tenor-saxophonists as Dexter Gordon or Wardell Gray. This may be because he stayed on the American West Coast and refused to go to New York, where most of the jazz critics were. Edwards gained brief stardom with his 1947 collaboration alongside Dexter Gordon (appropriately called The Duel), and this album illustrates the powers of a saxist who could claim equality with the greats.
The recordings on this compilation come from various sessions in 1960, with Teddy leading three different quartets. Tracks 1 to 7 comprised the original Teddy Edwards album It's About Time; tracks 8 to 11 and 17 to 19 come from Gloria Smyth's album Like Soul!; and tracks 12, 15 and 16 are taken from the Teddy Edwards LP Sunset Eyes. Tracks 13 and 14 are bonus cuts from this last session.
Teddy Edwards had an ingratiating tone which occasionally burst out into the extrovert style of the Texas tenorists. He could be emotive in ballads and subtly groovy on faster numbers. For instance, sample his tender reading of Fools Rush In and compare it with his no-nonsense blues preaching on Tempo de Blues. The latter is one of several numbers on the album composed by Edwards himself. Takin' Off, another of his tunes, whizzes by at a hair-raising pace. The group even makes Our Love is Here to Stay sound like a blues.
Teddy is accompanied by first-rate rhythm sections, including three very different pianists. Les McCann is renowned for this funky approach (evident in his introduction to his own composition, Beve's Conjumulations), while Amos Trice is an arch-bebopper and British emigr Ronnie Ball learnt much from Lennie Tristano.
The only fly in the ointment is singer Gloria Smyth, whose mannered delivery and wayward intonation don't appeal to me at all. In When You're Smiling, her pronunciation of "with you" as "withyer" drives me up the wall. It's a consolation that she only appears on seven tracks."
Tony Augarde -MusicWeb International