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Ornette Coleman at the SF Jazz Festival

Louie Bellson

How is the measure of a man equated after his death? By the amount of people who come out to celebrate his life and accomplishments. Tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards, who passed away at 78 on April 20, never became a marquee star like fellow top players of the early ’40s, such as Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray. Nonetheless, he was widely respected by peers and greatly adored by Los Angeles’ jazz community, which was his home base. That love was unquestionably apparent during the memorial celebration held for him at the Hollywood Musician’s Union on May 4th. With attendance overflowing into the lobby, there was a highly emotional show of affection and adulation for the pioneering bebop reedist.

In what amounted to cross merging of performances and funeral eulogies, friends, family and fellow musicians expressed condolences. Bernie Hamilton, brother of famed drummer Chico, led things off and passionately recited poetry much like a Baptist minister gives a sermon. To say the least, it was quite moving and accentuated the more spiritual aspects of the commemorative event. Still it was Edwards’ music and his contributions to jazz that were mostly celebrated.

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