Harry "Sweets" Edison
(b. 10 October 1915 or 1919
d. 26 July 1999) was one of the great jazz trumpeters
. His style, like that of his longtime
bandleader, Count Basie
, was to treat each note he played like
a precious gem, putting it right where it belonged. This style
realizes that the space between notes
is just as important as the
. The result is a tremendous swinging
Edison's tone was also what many call "sweet
" and also "fat
- eschewing the
classical tone for a unique big-ass, brassy, round tone
which doesn't resonate
so much as land
in your lap
His solos often prefer the lower registers of the trumpet, in contrast
to the trend of trumpeters before and after him.
Edison never knew his father, who he thought was a native American,
possibly Hopi, and his mother didn't note down his date of birth.
While most reference guides put his birthdate at 10 October 1915,
Harry claimed it was closer to 1919. In either case he was born in
Columbus, Ohio, where he later died on 26 July 1999. He picked up a trumpet
at age 12 (?) and gigged around the midwest until
1933 the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra in St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1938 he would find a home
with Count Basie's Orchestra, playing with them
until 1950 when the orchestra disbanded. During this time Lester Young
started calling Edison "Sweets", due to his sound and style of playing.
One of Edison's specialties was accompanying
vocalists, most notably Billie Holiday.
In my mind, accompaniment is harder than soloing because one
has to improvise in the spaces left by the singer in a way
which complements the vocalist without distracting from his/her
performance. Aside from Lester Young, Harry "Sweets" Edison is the best
in my mind.
After the Basie Big Band, Edison played with Frank Sinatra,
Rosemary Clooney, Nelson Riddle, Jazz at the Philharmonic,
Oscar Peterson, Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones, and Buddy Rich.
One notable partner was tenor sax player Eddie "Lockjaw" Davies
with whom Edison played frequently in the 1970's.
Edison's playing declined but didn't stop in the 1980's and 1990's.
He taught music at Yale University and was honored with a
National Endowment for the Arts Award in 1990.