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Edgar Jefferson (his name at birth) was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Considered by many as the founder of “vocalese” (putting recorded solos to words), Eddie Jefferson did not have a great voice but he was one of the top jazz singers, getting the maximum out of what he had. He started out working as a tap dancer but by the late '40s was singing and writing lyrics. A live session from 1949 (released on Spotlite) finds him pioneering vocalese by singing his lyrics to "Parker's Mood" and Lester Young's solo on "I Cover the Waterfront."
However, his classic lyrics to "Moody's Mood for Love" were recorded first by King Pleasure (1952) who also had a big hit with his version of "Parker's Mood." Jefferson had his first studio recording that year (which included Coleman Hawkins' solo on "Body and Soul") before working with James Moody (1953-57). Although he recorded on an occasional basis in the 1950s and '60s, his contributions to the idiom seemed to be mostly overlooked until the 1970s. Jefferson worked with Moody again (1968-73) and during his last few years often performed with Richie Cole. He was shot to death outside of a Detroit club May 9th, 1979.
Eddie Jefferson, who also wrote memorable lyrics to "Jeannine," "Lady Be Good," "So What," "Freedom Jazz Dance," and even "Bitches' Brew," recorded for Savoy, Prestige, a single for Checker, Inner City and Muse; his final sides appeared in 1999 under the title Vocal Ease.
Nothing But the Blues The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York