June 26, 2016
Xanadu Master Edition Series 906077
Sort of like viewing a pristine print of a studio made film of the mid-20th Century in 2016, Feelin’s, tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards 1974 come-back LP provides insights into the jazz record business then and now. Edwards (1924-2003), along with Hampton Hawes, Frank Morgan and other Los Angles natives was a journeyman Bopper who never received his due. A so-called hot player in a place where Cool jazz and studio work were given priority he was part of, but never reached the top-rank of, the California Jazz elite. Plus unlike more adventurous types such as Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy he never moved to New York, which provided more opportunities for a player of his calibre.
Although like the guild craftsman who works at an elevated level despite mass production standards, Edwards never lacked for work with contemporaries such as Milt Jackson, Gerald Wilson and Groove Holmes, but when this date was set up, he hadn’t recorded under his own name for seven years. Neither Free Jazz nor Fusion, his style wasn’t in fashion, since the CD’s six tracks are cast in the timeless Blues, ballads and Bop continuum Jazz club currency.
Decisively that’s the shortcoming as well as the satisfaction of this disc. Edwards and his veteran crew are comfortable and unselfconscious playing this music as they would on a regular gig any time between 1966 and 2016. Plus while Edwards may be sporting a porkpie hat on the cover the affiliated program has none of the frenetic showiness the so-called Young Lions would soon exhibit as they often caricatured this band’s casual mastery. By the same token because no one player burns with the flame that stoked early modern Jazz, the playing may be too comfortable.
There’s no way it should for Edwards wasn’t the only underappreciated first-generation Bopper in the band. Sharing the front line was big band/studio pro Conte Candoli, whose bright up-tempo work enlivens tracks like “Ritta Ditta Blues” and whose playing was mellow enough to add a Latin tinge on a piece such as “The Blue Sombrero”. Drummer Frank Butler was another West Coast Bopper similar to Edwards, and conga drummer Jerry Steinholz adds the requisite late-night rhythmic jump when needed. Meanwhile bassist Ray Brown, whose magnified thumping dominates many of the tracks, was so well-known after his years with Oscar Peterson that he was virtually calling the shots for Hollywood studio work. That he took time from his busy schedule for this date shows the respect with which Edwards was regarded by his peers.
Except for the percussionist the other players could have been famous enough for Mount Rushmore compared to pianist Dolo Coker (1927-1983). But whether the band is exploring in soul-ballad like “Georgia on My Mind”, with Edwards at his breathy Coleman Hawkins-like best; a boss nova like “April Love”, where his secondary voicing complements the others’ solos; or “Eleven Twenty Three”, a funky stop-time blues where the saxophonist’s pumping and Butler’s tambourine-on-hit-hat smacking sneak toward big beat Rock’n’Roll, Coker sails through with aplomb.
While some of the material may sail a little close to pat, with all the participants now dead, there will never be anyone able to properly play this kind of happy blues and rhythm music again. At that time, directors Don Siegel, Arthur Penn and John Cassavetes were all making films within the studio system that were as competent yet as undervalued as this LP. In retrospect it deserves the same accolades and respect their cinema now receives.
Track Listing: 1. Bear Tracks 2. April Love 3. Ritta Ditta Blues 4. Eleven Twenty Three 5. Georgia on My Mind 6. The Blue Sombrero
Personnel: Conte Candoli (trumpet); Teddy Edwards (tenor saxophone); Dolo Coker (piano); Ray Brown (bass); Frank Butler (drums) and Jerry Steinholz (congas and percussion)