Granville Edwards

Biography by

Jamaican-born jazz saxophonist who led an influential multi-cultural band in Manchester from the '40s through the '90s.
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

b. Granville Mortlock Edwards, 3 February 1921, St. Anne’s Parish, Brownstone, Jamaica, d. 7 August 2004, Manchester, England. Edwards’ father was a bandmaster and as a boy he played trumpet under his tutelage. A lip injury prompted a change to reed instruments and he eventually settled with the tenor saxophone. A liking for jazz developed after hearing the music on radio and as a teenager he formed his own band, playing dance music. In 1940, he visited the USA, working at various jobs in several states, hoping to accumulate enough money to buy decent instruments for his musicians back home. Back in Jamaica, he lived and worked in Kingston where he heard bop, again courtesy of the radio, and was interested enough to seek to bring this form of jazz into his repertoire.

In 1948, Edwards went to Britain on the SS Empire Windrush, one of many West Indians forming a part of the new wave of migrants that was to have a lasting effect on British culture and in particular on music in London. Edwards lived in various parts of the UK before taking up residence in Manchester where he was to remain almost continuously for a half century. He took factory work, but formed a band that played whenever and wherever he could find work. He continued with a day job, with music as a sideline that was more important to him for its intrinsic benefits than as a secondary income. His bands were usually multi-racial, with Africans, West Indians, Europeans; their music, ethnically-charged contemporary jazz with a pronounced Caribbean feel. One of his sidemen was bass player Lord Kitchener, better known as a calypso singer. From time to time, jazz musicians from London on visits to Manchester would seek out and sit in with Edwards, notably Tubby Hayes and Joe Harriott.

Edwards continued in this vein, day job and music by night, for the next 30 years, sometimes playing hotels, but mostly pubs and clubs. At first, he was able to cash in on the trad jazz boom although his musical interests were much more varied and flexible. Among locally-based musicians with whom he played were banjoist Martin Boorman, whom he joined in Mardi Gras, a band that also included trumpeter Cuff Billett and bass player Mickey Ashman. Edwards also played with gospel singer Sheila Collier, and a fellow Jamaican, pianist Chester Harriott. It was though his connection with the latter that Edwards began to work regularly at Granada Television’s Manchester studios, chiefly off screen. The Granada band, actually trombonist Dave Donahoe’s Hi-Life Band, a New Orleans-style marching band, entertained tourists visiting the studios and also played outside gigs, including performing at 1990’s festival at Ascona, Switzerland.

Edwards continued playing until shortly after the 1994 Cork Jazz Festival when he was forced to abandon his instrument owing to a blood clot on the lung. A few years later, this habitually retiring artist’s profile was raised a little when he became the subject of an affectionate article by Val Wilmer in the September 1998 issue of Jazz Journal International.