Maitland Edey: An Island Renaissance man

From an interview with Tony Omer, December 2013.


“Mait” Edey, who died in December 2016, was well known on Island for his talents as a jazz musician, writer, boatbuilder, and meditation teacher. In 2013, he discussed these gifts with MVTimes reporter Tony Omer.

Do you still perform music?

My musical activities have been very slim. I play occasionally now at a party or something. But since I don’t have a portable piano that I like, I can only play at places where they have a good piano. I play sometimes for Pathways up at the Chilmark Tavern. David Stanwood has this nice little acoustic piano. It has great action and nice sound, and I enjoy playing it.

What do you play at home?

I have a very nice Steinway upright I’ve had for 10 or 12 years maybe.

How did you first come to the Island?

I came as a summer kid for a good part of my life. My winter home was on Long Island. My parents commuted into New York. My father was a writer and an editor; he worked for Time Inc., Time/Life, at various capacities and ended up in a very high position. He was basically running the book division when he got to retire. My mother was a psychoanalyst.

How old are you?

I’ll be 78 in a month. In two years I’ll be 80 years old, and I can’t believe it. It is such a weird thought.

Tell me about your band, Natural Food.

I was living off-Island then. I guess we got the band together in the late ’60s. I was living in Cambridge, and we played around the Boston area. I met some of the guys because I went to Berklee School of Music for a year and a half.

How long did you stay together?

It was kind of intermittent. The gigs were few. There’s three different guitar players on the record, because sometimes somebody would be available and sometimes not.

Did any of them continue on as professional musicians?

Well, one of them is quite well-known. John Abercrombie, who plays that fantastic solo on “Fair Breeze on Buzzards Bay.” He’s not a household name, but he’s well-known in jazz circles. Lance Gunderson, another guitar player, lives in Maine, and he works locally, and he’s quite active and well-regarded.

What do you do when you’re not playing music?
I have three projects, each of which could be a full-time one, so consequently I make slow progress in all of them. One of them is I’m a meditator and I cultivate a meditation practice, and another is I write philosophy essays. I write for The Journal of Consciousness Studies, an academic journal in England. I’ve been writing a book for a few years, and I’m not sure whether I’ll ever finish it or not.

What is the name of your book?

“Nature and Self.”

And how far along are you on that?

It’s hard to say on that, because I’m not sure how much of it I have to revise. I keep having to revise it because time passes and I see ways it should be improved.

So you write, you meditate … what’s the third?

Music. I’m just playing the piano for myself, and I play occasional little gigs at parties.

Do you often play with other people?

No, I can’t very much. Occasionally I’ll get together with other people, but my hearing is so bad it’s hard for me. If there’s two or three instruments going at once, it’s hard for me to distinguish them, like having more than one voice talking at once. I can’t understand either one if there are two voices going at once.

What I want to do is find a compatible guitar player and have a duo or maybe a trio with a drummer and get a little more active. Maybe play some gigs and stuff. I’ve been working on Eric Johnson. He’s my first choice on the Island for a guitar player.

Do you compose?

Well yeah, I play mostly my own music, which is sort of blues and boogie music, swing blues music … 1930s Kansas City, that kind of music.

Mr. Edey’s book, “Nature and Self,” remained unfinished upon his death. The family is trying to assemble a book on his life, and would be deeply appreciative to receive any relevant writings, clippings, or photos from anyone who wishes to contribute. The mailing address is Fausta Edey, P.O. Box 814, West Tisbury, MA 02575.