David Lauderdale

Love and a song: Beaufort musical giant Eddie Pazant dies at 79

Eddie Pazant performs at the funeral for his mother, Rosalie Frazier Pazant, at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort on Oct. 2, 2010.
Eddie Pazant performs at the funeral for his mother, Rosalie Frazier Pazant, at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Beaufort on Oct. 2, 2010. dlauderdale@islandpacket.com

Eddie Pazant, whose music rooted in Beaufort took him around the world to play for kings and queens, died Tuesday at his home in Teaneck, N.J. He was 79.

Savannah jazz great Teddy Adams said Pazant “is probably Beaufort’s premier musician,” followed by Bill Barnwell, his brother Alvin Pazant and Gerald Brazel.

“His tone on the alto sax is probably one of the best in modern jazz,” Adams said in 2010 after Pazant came home to play for his mother’s funeral. “That’s something that’s hard to get. It’s a rare thing to hear. His tone is resonant and rich, and it gets attention.”

Pazant was reared on Greene Street in a musical family. He was strongly influenced by his grandfather who lived next door, William Frazier, who had a beautiful baritone voice and was a cornet and tuba player who directed the Allen Brass Band.

His mother, Rosalie Frazier Pazant, and her mother, played piano in churches and gave piano lessons. Eddie Pazant’s first lessons came at age 5 and he would grow up to be a pro who told young people: “Practice hard. It’s not easy out here.”

Pazant’s practice landed him in the Coastal Jazz Association’s Hall of Fame in Savannah.

He played with Lionel Hampton & His Orchestra for 14 years, traveling America by motor coach with his clarinet, flute, oboe, and tenor, soprano and alto saxaphones.

He debuted professionally in 1957, playing the alto sax in “Jazz Under The Stars” in New York City’s Central Park with Lionel Hampton and Billie Holliday as lead vocalist. That was a long way from Greene Street, but he felt right at home.

His father, Ed Pazant Sr., was an educator who sang in a quartet. He said his mother “had the most soulful approach to the ballads.” He said he learned from his parents the fun and joy of music.

He said his sisters — Lauretta, Da-Renne, Charlotte and Reba — “have the most beautiful harmony you want to hear.”

Among his notable performances in his hometown was the time he and his siblings performed with their mother at Beaufort’s Gullah Festival, which she founded. Also, he once performed on his family’s front porch with Lionel Hampton.

Eddie and Al Pazant, who was the bass singer for The Manhattans, had a group called the Pazant Brothers. They recorded albums with a band called Beaufort Express: “Loose and Juicy” and “Full Circle.”

He played in a Broadway musical, “Blues in the Night,” starring Eartha Kitt and later Della Reese. He went on from there to tour for five years with Melba Moore.

Ed and Al Pazant became co-leaders of the Cotton Club Orchestra in Harlem.

The brothers formed a back-up band for boxer Joe Frazier, another native of Beaufort who hit it big on the world stage.

Pazant also toured with the George Gee Orchestra and Pucho’s Latin Soul Brothers.

He later cut the album “Home Cookin’” to include a song written for his late wife of 45 years, “For the Love of Patricia.”

When he came home to play by his mother’s casket in the Tabernacle Baptist Church, he talked about the link between his family’s music and love.

“It’s all inside me,” he said. “When I play, it comes out.”

It came out as a medley at the funeral.

“How Great Thou Art” was chosen because his mother loved gospel music and the church.

“Without A Song” was chosen because she loved beautiful melodies.

And he liked its lyrics, made famous by Frank Sinatra:

“I only know there ain’t no love at all

Without a song.”

David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale