Theo (Ted) Saunders was born and raised on the island of Manhattan. His Russian heritage is masked by his name, which was legally changed along with the rest of his family so that his father, Nicholas, could get work as an actor during the Communist paranoia era of the 1950’s, which makes more sense when you know that he was the only actor in SAG/AFTRA who could speak fluently in both languages without a trace of an accent in either. He comes from a family whose theatre and musical roots go back four generations. His mother, Gedda, was pregnant with Theo when she was in Carousel on Broadway and, as a young teenager, he regularly provided piano accompaniment for her Broadway Show auditions. He attended the High School of Performing Arts (along with fellow jazzers George Cables, Bob Moses, and Ray Maldanado) where he got the jazz bug and spent several years at New York University before leaving to pursue his jazz calling. Besides working in NYC, he also lived and worked in Boston, Montreal, and Cincinnati. He was professionally known as Teddy or Ted Saunders until 1985 when he decided to use the name Theo because it felt closer to his European/Russian heritage.
He first moved to Los Angeles in 1974 and returned to NYC in 1980. He spent 5 years there before permanently moving back to Southern California in 1985.
Highlights of his career include: Performing at the Village Vanguard for a week in 1969 with guitarist Sonny Greenwich, Jimmy Garrison, and Jack DeJohnette….Playing electric piano and clavinet on the Bill Evans/George Russell album, “Living Time” on Columbia Records in 1971….. one of the first members of saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi’s group, Con Brio in the early 70’s….a member of John Klemmer’s group that opened for the first national tour of the VSOP band in 1978 (including a concert at Avery Fisher Hall)…. a member of Ted Curson’s group that played Monday nights at Sweet Basil for a year in the early 80’s……first gig in Los Angeles- a three month stint with Willie Bobo in 1974……six national tours with Freddie Hubbard between 1981-95…..European tour and Japanese tour with Carla Bley’s band in 1983-84 and a DVD, “Live at The Montreal Jazz Festival” ( a band that included Joe Lovano, Steve Slagle, Steve Swallow, and Victor Lewis)……being a member of Bob Brookmeyer’s Quartet in Los Angeles from 1979-80 and touring nationally as well as in the Netherlands…Musical Director for 3 contemporary operas by composer Noa Ain ("Trio" at the Berkshire Music Festival, first american music theater festival in Philadelphia, Carnegie Hall and virginia tech University, "The Outcast" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Merkin Hall, and the Houston Grand Opera, "Verse of Fortune", lyric by christian holder and still in development), member of Mike Stern’s group that played regularly at The 55 Bar in Soho from 1981-83….a number of gigs with Sonny Fortune in NYC from 1981-84 and a week with his band at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles in 2009…...first recording as a leader- The Teddy Saunders Sextet, “Sueblue” on Discovery Records in 1978…..second recording as a leader- The Theo Saunders Trio, “Three For All” on Blue Chip Jazz….my sixth recording as a leader- Theo Saunders and Intergenearation, “When The Saints Go Out” on Arabesque Records…my collaboration with George Herms at The Redcat Theatre in Los Angeles in 2011 and the recording it led to, which is my latest -"Jassemblage"......Performance collaborations with poet David Meltzer at the Hammer and Getty Museums in Los Angeles and the bird and Beckett book store in San francisco..... a member of bassist Henry Franklin’s group for the last decade with seven recordings…..a member of Bobby Matos’ Afro-Latin Ensemble for the last decade with six recordings…..a member of Azar Lawrence’s west coast band for the last three years, including a 2011 appearance at the Inntone Jazz Festival in Austria and at the Porgy and Bess club in Vienna and an eleven month residence at the RG Club in Venice, CA (2014) along with henry franklin and alphonse mouzon and many special guests. He recently (2016) toured with saxophonist Sonny Fortune as a member of a quartet that included Henry Franklin on bass and Marvin “Smitty” Smith on drums. The tour included gigs at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay, CA, The Jazz Alley in Seattle, and The Portland Jazz Festival......a member of the jazz tap ensemble performing with iconic hoofers like Jimmy Slyde, Harold Nicholas, and gregory hines.