Harry “Sweets” Edison, a smooth and suave trumpeter, was a cohort of orchestra leader Count Basie, a favourite of bandleader Nelson Riddle, and a noted backup artist for the most prominent vocalists of his time. Edison, with his energetic yet reticent blowing style, bridged a genre gap between the early classic jazz sound of Louis Armstrong and modern bebop modes. Edison, who played equally well in both styles, had a special talent for sustaining his trumpet notes and injecting each single tone with expression and soul never heard before or after. The special quality of his trumpet playing earned him the nickname “Sweets” because of the sweetness of the tones. Likewise his ability to control the tone of his trumpet brought him to the forefront as a session musician, playing accompaniments for the most respected vocalists of his time.
Edison was a true pioneer of jazz. An old-time homespun boy, born in Columbus, Ohio, he never knew with certainty even the year of his birth. According to his best knowledge, he was born in 1919, although some sources list the date as early as 1915. Edison knew even less about his own father, a Native American of the Hopi (Apache) tribe and a drifter who stayed only a few weeks with Edison’s mother before taking to the road and was rarely heard from afterward. Edison spent his early years with an uncle, who was a coal miner and a farmer, in Louisville, Kentucky. It was Edison’s uncle who taught the boy to play the pump organ and to play scales on an old cornet. Edison, who also listened to his uncle’s records, was especially inspired by the music of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. Gloria Cooksey/encyclopedia.com
Harry “Sweets” Edison added something special to any date in which he took part, but these 1958 sessions he led for Roulette are especially enjoyable. Joined by either Jimmy Jones or Kenny Drew on piano and Joe Benjamin or John Simmons on bass, along with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest and drummer Charlie Persip, Edison’s trumpet swings effortlessly through a batch of standards and originals. The loping blues “Centerpiece” became a classic jazz composition, recorded by numerous jazz artists, but this was its debut appearance on LP. “Jive at Five” dates from his years with Count Basie and finds the band sticking to an accompanying role in this swinging but brief arrangement. Edison utilizes a mute in the gently swinging “Louisiana,” while he showboats just a bit in a brief take of “It Happened in Monterey.” While this record might have offered a little more variety by giving solo space to some of the talented sidemen present, this long out of print LP is well worth acquiring. Ken Dryden/AMG