Teddy Edwards, a deft and soulful saxophonist who was a mainstay of the Southern California jazz scene and played what is said to be the first recorded bebop solo on tenor saxophone, died on Sunday in Los Angeles, where he lived. He was 78.
The cause was prostate cancer, which was diagnosed in 1994. In recent years Mr. Edwards had also been suffering from a variety of other ailments but continued to perform.
A fixture in Los Angeles jazz for more than a half-century, Mr. Edwards was relatively unknown elsewhere, although he did have a following in Europe. Unlike Dexter Gordon, his friend and a fellow Los Angeles tenor saxophonist, he never felt the urge to move to New York, although he acknowledged that doing so might have raised his profile and helped his career.
"This tempo out here fits me a little better," he told The Detroit Free Press in 1996. "New York is pretty fast and a little too nervous for me. But I know my career would've bloomed faster if I'd been in New York."
Theodore Marcus Edwards was born on April 26, 1924, in Jackson, Miss., and was already a professional musician at 12. After playing alto saxophone with various bands throughout the South and in the Detroit area, he moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1940s.
While working with the trumpeter Howard McGhee, he switched from alto to tenor and on a 1946 record called "Up in Dodo's Room," he played what jazz historians have called the first solo on that instrument in the complex new bebop style. He was soon performing regularly on Central Avenue, the booming jazz strip in Los Angeles, and recording frequently as a leader.
Mr. Edwards's "Blues in Teddy's Flat," recorded in 1948, became the Dial label's biggest hit and something of a jazz standard, although he said the only money he ever made from it was the $41 and change he was paid for the session.
Mr. Edwards worked with Gerald Wilson and other local bandleaders, as well as with a quintet led by the vibraphonist Milt Jackson and the bassist Ray Brown, while continuing to perform and record with his own groups. High Note Records released his most recent album, “Smooth Sailing,” last month.
He seldom toured, but on his infrequent forays outside California, he never failed to impress.
In the 1980's Mr. Edwards briefly toured with the singer Tom Waits and performed with him on the soundtrack of the movie "One From the Heart."
"I don't know that Teddy's ever gotten the kind of recognition he's due," Mr. Waits told The Los Angeles Times.
In the 1990's, Mr. Edwards was a frequent participant in concerts presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center, holding his own with more famous rivals on tenor saxophone.
As a leader Mr. Edwards worked mostly with small groups but was especially proud of his 17-piece Brass-String Ensemble, which performed his own compositions and arrangements. The ensemble, which made its debut in 1977, was far too costly to keep together permanently, but Mr. Edwards assembled it for occasional concerts over the years and recorded an album with it, "Blue Saxophone," for the Antilles label in 1992.
A son, Teddy Jr., and a sister, Velma Diaz-Infante, both of Los Angeles, survive Mr. Edwards.