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VALLEY WEEKEND : MUSIC : SOUNDS : Longtime Sax Man Draws on the Power of the Bluesy Ballad : At 71, Teddy Edwards says his performances with the BrassString Ensemble are 'all about feeling and expression.'

October 12, 1995|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards enters his 60th year in the music business soon--he was playing alto sax and clarinet with Doc Parmlee's band in his native Jackson, Miss., when he was 12.

Much of his continued drawing power has been built on his capacity for delivering riveting, bluesy statements that get a crowd aroused.

Edwards, a vigorous 71, has another side of his art that's perhaps even more potent: his ballad mastery. At the tribute for the late bassist Larry Gales, held recently at the Musicians Union in Hollywood, the tenor man offered a soft-toned, sensuous version of Erroll Garner's "Misty," enthralling the audience. "I've always said that my whisper is greater than my shout," said Edwards, who appears Tuesday with his BrassString Ensemble at the Moonlight Tango Cafe in Sherman Oaks. "That's where I get my greatest response."

Edwards said in balladry, he's like "a radio set, transmitting something to the audience. I must first feel the strength of the melody myself, then it can be sent to the listeners, who respond with how they feel," said the musician, who has lived in Los Angeles since the late '40s.

"It's all about feeling and expression."

Ultimately, Edwards says he tries to play a ballad as if he were the fan listening. "I play it like I would like someone to play a song for me," he said.

Ballads will certainly be on tap at the Moonlight Tango, where Edwards' orchestra includes such top L.A. jazz talent as Thurman Green, trombone; Andy Simpkins, bass; and Lisa Nobumoto, vocals.

The woodwind specialist will offer "A Ballad for Susan," written for a Dutch opera singer; "Blue Serenade," which he recorded on clarinet on his latest Antilles album, "Blue Saxophone"; and the Hoagy Carmichael favorite, "Georgia on My Mind."

Edwards calls the BrassString band "his baby," adding, "I started writing music for it in 1976 after I had surgery, and it helped me recuperate."

* Teddy Edwards' BrassString plays Tuesday, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., at the Moonlight Tango Cafe, 13730 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. $13 cover for 7:30 p.m. show, $9 cover for 9:30 p.m., $9.95 food or drink minimum. (818) 788-2000.

To The Forefront: Terry Trotter helps others sound good. In his career as a professional pianist, he's been a member of guitarist Larry Carlton's band, he worked on stage shows such as the collection of songs called "Side by Side by Sondheim," and he's backed up such singers as Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.

Trotter now spends a couple of months a year touring with Natalie Cole. "Musically, there's a lot of freedom," he said. "She likes the backgrounds to be changing, for the guys in the band to be as creative as possible."

Those core "guys" are Trotter, guitarist John Chiodini, bassist Jim Hughart and drummer Harold Jones. They've formed a band called Pocketwatch. The group steps out front and center Friday and Saturday at New York West, a new jazz club in Tarzana.

"We'll do mainly standards and jazz tunes, just go in and hit with no rehearsals," said Trotter, who along with his rhythm partners is recording this week behind singer Jeannie Bryson for Telarc Records. "We know how each other plays and we don't want it to sound too arranged."

* Pocketwatch plays Friday and Saturday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., at New York West, 19540 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. No cover, no minimum. Information: (818) 758-3900.

Organic Brandeis: The organ-guitar-drums trios of the '60s had a "cliche kind of sound," says guitarist Bennett Brandeis, and he's out to put a different spin on that. When he appears tonight at Chadney's with Louis Dura (keyboard organ, synth bass) and Jerry Kalaf (drums), the Chatsworth resident, 35, will offer a sound of the '90s.

"Ours is a very contemporary outlook," says Brandeis. "We play standards but we each allow our personal contributions to take the music where it may."

Brandeis also sees music as a vehicle for positive change in our society.

"People need to be awakened," he said. "I don't know what I am going to do, but I'm going to try. It's not just about music for me anymore. It's about reaching people."

* Bennett Brandeis' trio plays tonight, 9 to 1 a.m., at Chadney's, 3000 W. Olive St., Burbank. No cover, no minimum. (818) 843-5333.

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