Salisbury Press

Monday, February 24, 2020

Minister of jazz at Miller Symphony Hall

Wednesday, August 14, 2013 by JERRY DUCKETT Special to The Press in Focus

It's not unusual to see the Rev. Greg Edwards behind a podium delivering a sermon in Resurrected Life Church, 144 N. Ninth St., Allentown.

It's also not unusual to see and hear clarinetist-saxophonist, the Rev. Greg Edwards, at one of his many performances in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas.

Come and hear the music side of Edwards, performing with his friends, Frank DiBussolo, guitar, piano; Stephen Liu, bass, and Brian Tyrek, drums, in the Jazz Cabaret Series, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16, Miller Symphony Hall, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown.

Edwards, 43, was born and raised in Washington, N.J. His grandmother was a church organist for 60 years for the Mt. Pisgah congregation. His grandfather was Buddy Groves, a professional saxophonist. Edwards never got to meet him. At 27, Groves was killed in an automobile accident on the way home from a gig.

Says Edwards, "I knew music would be part of my life the first time I ever heard my grandmother play the B-3 organ. I believe that's where my passion for music was first nurtured, and I emerged from that experience.

"I started playing the clarinet when I was nine years old and in fourth grade. I wanted to play the sax, my first choice of instruments, but they told me my fingers were not large enough for the sax, and gave me a clarinet.

"I did all the regular things most musical kids do in school, keeping up with my lessons, and playing in multiple groups. I would listen to Benny Goodman on New York's radio station, WNEW, and later in middle school and high school, I added the soprano, alto and tenor saxophones to my practice routines, and eventually my gigs."

Edwards studied and worked with the late jazz clarinetist Kenny Davern, who lived n Manasquan, N.J. His association with Davern showed him the way to gain more knowledge of his craft and an appreciation for traditional and classic mainstream jazz.

Edwards played his first professional gig while still in high school and eventually met a popular Lehigh Valley saxophone favorite, Bobby "Lips" Levine, who played with Parke Frankenfield, and became Edwards's teacher and mentor.

It was through Levine that Edwards got is first gig. Levine could not make a date with trombone player Vic Dickerson's band, and Edwards substituted.

Dickerson had played with bands led by Bobby Hackett and Eddie Condon. Says Edwards, "That's the time I really found my love for jazz, and in particular, Chicago-style jazz, a northern style of Dixieland and mainstream jazz."

Edwards' early relationships with Davern and Levine opened the doors for him to perform in a variety of venues throughout the United States and overseas. He moved to California in 1991, and did studio work there, working with Ray Charles, Phil Woods, Lionel Hampton, among others.

Edwards is working on two recordings, one with DiBussolo, and the other with vocalist Lynnie Godfrey.

"Halfway through my musical life, I got a call to the ministry," Edwards says."I had grown up in the church, and we must remember that blues, jazz and gospel are on opposite sides of the same coin."

Edwards graduated from Geneva College, the University of Delaware's Graduate school of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, and Drew University. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Urban Ministry Leadership. He's pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry degree in Public Policy and Mass Incarceration at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

"Ten years ago I became a founding pastor of Resurrected Life Community Church in Allentown. We began with five members and now we have 400, including a pre-school."