Savannah's jazz scene was in a pretty sorry state when Teddy Adams returned in 1976.
"At that time, jazz was about dead," he said.
So he helped spark a revival that he's still carrying on today.
Adams will play Sept. 8 with an ensemble of the Savannah Jazz Orchestra at Street Music on Paris Avenue. The group will bring two vocalists and play a selection from the American songbook.
The ensemble is just a portion of the full 18-member orchestra that plays several times a year in Savannah. Adams helped form it, the latest in his quest to preserve jazz music in his hometown.
Adams started playing trombone professionally as a high schooler in Savannah and planned to attend a university in Florida on a music scholarship. Instead, he joined the U.S. Air Force and started playing in its band across the United States and Asia. He studied under influential Japanese saxophonist Sadao Watanabe in Tokyo and played with the likes of jazz icons Art Blakey, Rufus Reid and Blue Mitchell.
Adams returned home to find the jazz scene had suffered since he'd last been there. He teamed up with bass player Ben Tucker, who's gone on to achieve legendary status in the local jazz scene, to form the Telfair Jazz Society and lead a resurgence of the art form in the city. Adams later co-founded the Coastal Jazz Association, which organizes the annual Savannah Jazz Festival held later this month. He helped start the orchestra about 20 years ago.
"We just started to get together for the sake of getting together, and then we started to do regular shows," he said.
The orchestra receives a grant from the city to perform three shows a year, then puts on another four or so on their own. On occasion, they break into an ensemble to accommodate smaller shows.
Performing at Street Music will be Adams, Ryan Byrd on drums, frequent Jazz Corner bassist George Sheck, Eric Jones on piano, saxophonist Randall Reese and vocalists Priscilla Williams and Terry Herron.
Their song selection will include tunes closely associated with Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer and more.
"We do a cross section of American classics," Herron said.