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Harry Edison
Harry Edison.jpg
Edison in Paris, France, 1980
Background information
Born(1915-10-10)October 10, 1915
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
DiedJuly 27, 1999(1999-07-27) (aged 83)
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
GenresJazz, swing
LabelsPacific Jazz, Verve, Roulette, Riverside, Vee-Jay, Liberty, Sue, Black & Blue, Pablo, Storyville, Candid
Associated actsCount Basie Orchestra, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Ben Webster, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Lester Young, Buddy Rich, Oscar Peterson

Harry "Sweets" Edison (October 10, 1915 – July 27, 1999) was an American jazz trumpeter and a member of the Count Basie Orchestra.[1]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Sweets Edison interview by Monk Rowe - 9/3/1995 - Los Angeles, CA
  • ✪ Harry "Sweets"Edison-Red Bunk Shuffle


MR: My name is Monk Rowe. We are filming today for the Hamilton College Jazz Archive. It's a special day for us because we're here today with one of the kings of the trumpet, Sweets Edison. SE: Thank you. MR: It's a great pleasure to have you here. SE: It's a pleasure. It's a compliment to me that you even invited me to do it. I feel honored. MR: Well we are in the process of getting some stories from some of our greatest musicians in the country. And we are very thrilled to have you here. SE: It's a thrill to be here. MR: And we are interested in hearing your stories and, of course where you got your nickname, we have to ask that, but- SE: Well when I first joined the Count Basie band in 1938, Lester Young, he was my roommate. And he had a knack for giving names to people that always stuck. So he gave me the name of "Sweets." He gave Billie Holiday the name of "Lady Day," and he named himself "Prez." MR: He named himself? SE: He named himself Prez. MR: All right. SE: So that name has stuck with me all my life. In fact, I don't know -the only one that called me by my name that was my mother. She passed away a couple of years ago at 90 years old. She called me Harry. But everybody else calls me Sweets. MR: I think it fits your playing. SE: And I don't know why he named me Sweets, but it's an interesting name and I know it can't be because I'm so sweet. MR: Oh, maybe the notes you play? The tone you had? SE: I don't know. I never did ask him, I just- MR: Just took it? SE: Just took the name. Of course it was an honor for me to be named by Prez you know. He was such a great artist. He was a fantastic musician, not only a great tenor player and a stylist, he was a good musician. He played wonderful clarinet, but Benny Goodman gave him a clarinet at one time and we played a dance someplace and somebody stole it so he never did play it any more. He never played clarinet. MR: I'd heard that story but not the end of it. Too bad. When you were young- SE: Yesterday. MR: Yesterday, when you were young - it sounds like a song - when you were growing up was there certain influences that led you to the trumpet? SE: Yes. Louis Armstrong. He was my idol. I was born in Kentucky and moved to Columbus, Ohio when I was six months old, so I didn't know too much about Kentucky. I went back when I was five and stayed with my grandparents there for about seven years, whom he taught, my uncle taught me the scales on the trumpet, but he was never a schooled professionally, he just picked music up. So he taught me the scales. And I've tried to play ever since. I didn't want to play, but after I heard Louis Armstrong play, I had no doubts that I wanted to try to be a trumpet player. I'm still trying. MR: When you say you heard him, was there records in your house? SE: Oh, yes. My mother had music all the time, all kinds of records, you know of Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Mamie Smith, all the blues, any kind of blues record that you wanted to hear, she had it. So blues and spirituals, all through my house there. But Louis Armstrong, he was just undescribable. There is no words that you can describe Louis Armstrong with, because he was such a phenomenon on that trumpet. He did what, he did a lot of things on that trumpet that the echelon said couldn't be done. Great trumpet teachers like [Vincent] Bach, Schlossberg, other music teachers, Dal Staigers, said couldn't be done, but he did. And he never had a lesson. He was an orphan you know, and picked up the trumpet, a little coronet, and he made history. MR: Did you have an opportunity to hear him? SE: Oh, yes. He was a very dear friend. A very dear friend. He used to, I was playing here at Memory Lane Club, oh, while he was living he used to come here quite often, and he used to come to the Memory Lane Club to listen to me you know. He was a great friend. You never said anything while he was talking because everything that he said you wanted to just grasp. You know he had so much experience. In fact he was the ambassador of one of the oldest forms of art and culture we have in America, which is spirituals, blues and jazz. That's the oldest form of art that we have here in America. And he was the, well he took jazz all over the world. In 1976 I think it was I went to the Middle East for the government of the United States as a, they were trading artists at the time. They had artists come to America and we went through the Middle East. We went to Istanbul, Turkey, Tehran, Damascus, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait. And we played the university there in Cairo. And the first thing the guy asked me was, "do you play like Satchmo?" He was just - in fact they have a library there in Cairo, of nothing but Louis Armstrong records in the university. I don't think we have that here in America, I don't think. MR: It's been a great gift of our country to the world. SE: Oh, yes, to the world. He was, he played, I don't think he missed any place on this earth playing. He played just about every place, and played for royalty, they appreciated him over there very much. In fact the Europeans appreciate jazz music more than Americans, although it's an American art form. But it's appreciated more in Europe. And as you know, a lot of the musicians have migrated to Europe because they appreciate them more then they do here in America. Like the late great Ben Webster, Don Byas, Stuff Smith, Rex Stewart, Benny Carter lived in Europe for years. There's just so much appreciation for you over there, you're loved for what you can do, you know? And it is an art. I think jazz musicians should be given the same respect as concert musicians, because we devote our lives to improvising on a melody, and that's not easy to do, and concert musicians, they exert themselves mechanically. They play a note, if it's a quarter note it gets one beat. If we play a quarter note it might get one beat or a half a beat or whatever, any way we feel. And to improvise on a melody for five, six, seven, eight, nine choruses, it's not easy. MR: No, it's not. SE: It's not easy. MR: Is it a skill that you learned - how did you learn that skill? Can you describe that? SE: Yes, because in my era, as you know, there was a lot of prejudice toward the musicians because we couldn't play in a studio band, they had radio bands that were getting paid weekly, they were on a salary. They had musicians here at Fox Studio, MGM, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, they were all on staff. And they got paid whenever they worked or played. But they didn't have black musicians at the time. So our only course was to play solos. And when you picked up your horn, you'd get you a "Georgia Brown" or something, whatever that came to your mind to play, you would improvise on that. And that was the only way that you could exist, is play jazz. Because there was no place for us to play but dance halls. I joined Count Basie in 1938 and he used to do like three hundred one-nighters a year, you know? Where Benny Goodman or one of those bands would be in a hotel six months in New York and the hotel in Chicago for three months, you know, they always were sitting some place where they could do balls or whatever they wanted to do. They could be with their families, you know? But we had to take to the road. And as I was telling Wynton Marsalis, I made a CD with him last week. And I told him that you know there were quite a few good, legitimate trumpet players years ago, but they had no place to play. There was one guy, Russell Smith, he was the greatest student Bach had. He learned the trumpet, oh there was no kind of concert trumpet he couldn't play. But he couldn't get a job. So he had to go with Fletcher Henderson for the rest of his life. So why should I waste five or six years learning the finer points of my horn when I couldn't work? So I started playing solos in Columbus, Ohio. My mother bought me a trumpet, paid fifty cents down on it and fifty cents a month. It cost $12.50. So that was the greatest present I ever had. And first thing I wanted to do was play a chorus on one of Louis Armstrong's melodies that I heard on one of his recording, "I'm Confessing that I Love You." And that inspired me to be a trumpet player. But those trumpet players in those days, Wendell Cully, I imagine you remember the pretty solo he played on "L'il Darling" with Count Basie. MR: Yes. We were just talking about that section that he was in. SE: Yes. He was from Boston and one of the finest students Schlossberg had. And his ambition was to play in the Boston Pops because he was from Boston. But he ended up with Noble Sissle. He couldn't get a job. They didn't hire black musicians in symphony bands in those days. So we all ended up doing one-nighters. You know we'd pass each other on the road going to Birmingham or Texas or Mississippi. We played every nook and corner in the United States. MR: What was that life like? SE: Being young as I was, I was having a ball. I loved it you know. But as you get older it takes its toll. And after the big bands sort of diminished because dance halls diminished, small bands began to thrive. You know like the John Kirby band. He's the one-the Nat King Cole Trio - we had small bands. Because you played in clubs and it was like a concert instead of a dance. Like at Savoy Ballroom, they had dances you know. They danced all night. Nobody wanted to sit and listen because they wanted to feel that fire that the band hand, you know the impulse from the musicians to the dancers. You know that feeling that they had together, it would make you want to dance you know? But now it's altogether different. You play a concert when you're playing. Like tonight, everybody was listening. MR: How do you feel about that? How did that effect the music? Do you think it was a - SE: Oh, it had its toll on jazz because there are no more big bands, there are I think only the Count Basie Band and the Duke Ellington Band, but it's not like the leader was there, like if you cut the head of a snake off, the tail dies, and the head of the snake was like the band leader, like Count Basie. Regardless what he played when he was there, you miss seeing him. He had an aura about him that everybody loved. Everybody loved Count Basie. Everybody loved Duke Ellington. The big bands were so popular in those days, until, and they, most of the musicians in those days demanded respect because they were an artist. And they were all individualists. Everybody had a sound of their own. They could be identified on the record like if Billie Holiday would sing on the record you'd know it's nobody but Billie Holiday. She's the only one sounded like that. If Louis Armstrong, he can hit one note on a record, and you know it's Louis Armstrong. Nobody sounded like Lester Young. Like Coleman Hawkins. Like Bunny Berigan. Like Benny Goodman, Chu Berry, Dizzy Gillespie. They all had a sound that they could be recognized. And that was our ambition in my day to not be an imitator, but an originator, you know. And as they used to say they'd rather be the world's worst originator than the world's greatest imitator. Because there's nobody like the man that first sounded like that. You can never capture his feeling. So we all wanted to be individualists. I made many, many records with Billie Holiday and it was always a joy just to be in her company because she was just absolutely - I met her when she was about 19 years old. And what a voluptuous, beautiful girl she was. She was absolutely just gorgeous. And she had a sound that when you hear her on a record, you know that's Billie Holiday. And that's what we strived for in those days. Nowadays it seems like musicians have their idols and they don't venture any place else but what their idol is playing. Like Charlie Parker. All alto players sound like Charlie Parker. All the tenor players nowadays sound like John Coltrane. All the trumpet players either sound like Miles or Dizzy. So there's no originality nowadays with the musicians. I think Wynton Marsalis, he's trying to get him a sound of his own like he can be recognized. But he's a Miles Davis disciple. And Jon Faddis is a Dizzy Gillespie disciple. He plays exactly like Dizzy played when Dizzy was young, you know? So I - like Supersax. They don't play anything original, they've taken Charlie Parker's solos off the records and they put them to harmony. There is nothing original about that. MR: I guess it's a tribute of a sort. SE: It is a tribute, sure. MR: Well, you know finding that original sound I guess is not that easy. SE: Well we did it. MR: You sure did. SE: Not that my sound is to be, you know, I don't know anybody that sounds like me, and I don't blame them. MR: Well there's a number of people along the way who wanted your sound, that's for sure. SE: Well I've, in my era, there was so much competition. It was very competitive in New York at that time. And Charlie Shavers, and so many good trumpet players and they all had their own style. They had their own sound. There was no doubt when you heard them playing you could be ten miles away and hear them play and say, "that's Charlie Shavers-that's Dizzy-that's Louis Armstrong-that's Red Allen." Bunny Berigan had a good sound of his own. But Teddy Wilson, he had a style which was simple but beautiful, you know? MR: And the Basie band itself had a style. SE: Oh sure, sure. MR: How many years did you spend with the Basie band? SE: Well from '38 until 1950, then I went back and I got a studio job here at ABC, with Mitchell Ayres on the Hollywood Palace, and then I started playing with Frank Sinatra. I did everything with him and Nelson Riddle for about 13 years. I recorded a lot with Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald. I've been blessed all my life. It seems like that I don't know why I've been called to do records that like anybody could have done it you know. MR: Yeah, but like you stated, you had your sound. You must have developed a sound that people recognized and that when Frank Sinatra did a date, he knew who he wanted to hear behind him, as did Nelson Riddle. SE: Well it was funny how that happened. Because the first date I did with Frank Sinatra, I was in the brass section and I started playing little things behind him in the mute. And then later on they didn't give me any music, they just set me on a stool and put the earphones on, and said just play whenever you get ready. So that was quite an honor. I did that for about 13 years with him. And I've played with Hank Mancini and made soundtracks for movies, the "Lady Sings the Blues." I've done - I've been fortunate. God has blessed me because I've been chosen to do things I guess just because of my sound. And I'm still trying. What little success that I have, and I still have, I'm grateful. God has blessed me, as I said before, and I've tried to carry myself as well - as I always say in my era we had a lot of respect for each other. Musicians had so much respect for each other, and New York was such a beautiful place to be at that time, because it was so competitive. When I first went to New York, I couldn't get any sleep. I stayed up so long 'till I fell out on Seventh Avenue one night and had to go to the hospital. I just stayed up. MR: So much going on. SE: I couldn't miss it. I couldn't go to bed. I lived on 130th and Seventh Avenue. Art Tatum was playing on 131st Street, Don Redmond was playing across the street at 132nd Street, Billie Holiday was singing at 138th Street at a place called the Yeah Man Club, there was Small's Paradise on 135th Street. Everything was in Harlem. You know you could walk, and I walked so much 'till I just passed out. I just couldn't miss anything. So everybody was, you could see everybody that you wanted to see in the daytime on Seventh Avenue. Louis Armstrong, Ellington, James P. Johnson, Willie "The Lion" was at the Rhythm Club. It was just, it was amazing and it held my, I was just in awe at all of these people that I had seen on the stage in Columbus, Ohio at a dance. Cab Calloway. Here I am walking down Seventh Avenue, and looking at these people and saying hello to them. And Count Basie introduced me to all these people. He was like a father. When I first joined the band I was 19 and he just took a liking to me and he introduced me to Ellington, James P. Johnson, Art Tatum, Louis Armstrong, oh my goodness. It was just absolutely a thrill. MR: At the time you joined the Basie band, how much of the music was written out? SE: We didn't have any music. MR: That was my question. Now how did that work? And how did you learn what to play when you first got in there? SE: Well, that's an interesting question. Because when I first joined the band, everybody in the Count Basie band had played with Bennie Moten's band. So they all knew what they wanted to play. They all had notes to different - like "One O'Clock Jump," "Swinging the Blues," "Out the Window." It was a head arrangement you know. They just, the brass section would get together and they would play, set a riff behind a melody Basie would play on the piano. The saxophones would go in to another room and they would set a riff. And when we all came back to the rehearsal hall, we'd all have an arrangement, you know? So that went on with me for about a couple of years. And finally I told Basie I said, "I'm going to quit." He says, "why? You sound good." I said, "well all these arrangements that you play every night - I can't find a note. I can't find a note to 'Swinging the Blues' and playing it fast." I haven't had a chance - I really was disgusted. MR: Discouraged, huh? SE: Yes. So I said, "I'd rather for you to take my notice." He said, "well if you find a note tonight that sounds good, play the same damn note every night." So that's what I did. He encouraged me to sit there. And it was very difficult. Because when they played a tune like "Out the Window" or of course "One O'clock Jump" wasn't too fast, you could find a note, but "Jumpin' at the Woodside." Hell they're playing you know and you're trying to find a note to play, and it's past, and they're finished before you can find a note. MR: There's no rehearsal time to do that. You're playing every night, right? SE: Sure, sure. But he encouraged me, and I stayed there for 20 years in and out you know. And had it not been for Count Basie, I wouldn't be here with you, because nobody would have never heard about me. He gave me a chance and I had so much fun I don't know why he kept me with the band because I was having a ball. You know every night was fun to me. Just absolutely - sitting next to Lester Young - gee whiz, what a thrill you know. Jo Jones. Walter Page. Freddie Green, Buck Clayton, sitting next to him - you know it wasn't but three trumpets, Buck Clayton, Ed Lewis and myself; there was two trombones, and four saxophones. And four rhythm section. So I should have paid him to be in the band because I was having so much fun. MR: Amazing education. SE: Oh, my goodness. You couldn't pay for that kind of education. And then too, in New York at that time, you worked from nine to four. And they had many joints that you could go to after four, that you could go and play. MR: You worked from nine to four? SE: Nine to four in the morning. And then we'd go to a restaurant or someplace and get something to eat, and then they had places where trumpet players would go. All the trumpet players, we'd all end up there. As we used to call it we'd "cut each other" all night long. I stayed in there until one or two o'clock in the afternoon you know? But what a place to be to learn your instrument. Dizzy and all of us used to do that every morning. Charlie Shavers. We'd go someplace every morning, and play. And that is like a laboratory to someone who's trying to find a cure for a disease. He's in his laboratory. He's working. That is the laboratory, the after-hours joints was a laboratory for musicians, because we could go there and just play and find yourself. Because when I first heard Dizzy he was playing exactly like Roy Eldridge. Exactly like him. But going to the joints every night, and playing and playing, you forget about your idol, and you want to play how you feel. You play your ideas. MR: Your sound, sure. SE: They don't have that anymore for musicians. MR: That's right and it maybe shows up in what you were saying before that people get to a certain level and they aren't able to find- SE: Oh that's right. And they don't have any more big bands because in a big band when you travel together for three hundred one-nighters, you feel close to each other. It's a family. And we were closer to each other than we were our own, because we were with each other all the time. And there's no more respect for each other like it was when we came up. Like it is, it's not sad now, but it's-when I first started with Count Basie we were making nine dollars a night. And now, you know, they make nine hundred a night. You know, they haven't paid their dues yet but they want money. But I think all the older musicians that are making money, they sure in hell deserve it. Because they have paid their dues. MR: Well that's why we're here too. When you talk about some of the great singers, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, did you ever have the opportunity to play behind Joe Williams? SE: Oh, sure. I was the first band that he went on the road with when he left Basie. I had the band, and Basie was his manager, and I was working out of the same office, so Basie said, "well you two are about to, you know, you have that same Count Basie feeling, so I think you'd make a good package." And we went out together for a couple of years, two or three years. Playing with singers are very enjoyable. Nat Cole was just absolutely, he was a joy to work with. And Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan. I've recorded many, many, many times with Ella. In fact I made her last CD, which is called "All That Jazz." And I made the last CD of Billie Holiday called "Lady in Satin." That was her last album. And she wouldn't do it until I got back to New York off the road. And we were very, very, very good friends. Carmen McRae, I recorded with Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby, just about everybody, just about everybody. So as I say all the time, God has blessed me. I've been blessed and still being blessed because I'm sitting here with you. MR: Tell us about what you're doing today. SE: For the future? Well I'm not going on the road no three hundred one-nighters anymore that's for sure. I'm through with that. But I have, I'm going to Chicago in the morning to play a festival with Clark Terry. And the 13th I'll be at the Hollywood Bowl, the last jazz series of the summer, a tribute to Lionel Hampton which is called "Vibes." And I'm going to the Kennedy Center on the 8th to play a concert there for the President with Lionel Hampton. And I'm going to Europe, going to Paris at a place called the Caveau de Huchette, it's on the Left Bank there in Paris. I love Paris. I've been there many, many, many times. Parles vous Fran�ais? Petit peu? MR: Real petit peu. SE: I'm very fond of Paris, and in fact I've been all through many, many, many times. I have a lot of friends over there. And I look forward to going over there to see my friends. MR: People have said that there's a difference in the way the music is approached and- SE: Well music gets you in many places that you would never think that you would be in. Like in school I used to read about Egypt, the pyramids and places like that. Turkey, Istanbul. And I'm a frustrated tourist. My girlfriend, she made me a frustrated tourist. Well she's an English professor. And of course I used to go there and never see anything. But when she came over with me she had an itinerary made out, we'd go to this place, this place, go to Marseilles, go to see Versailles, go to, oh my goodness, the Louvre, Notre Dame, oh just so many places that music has opened the door for me to see. And the Middle East, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Queen Alia in Jordan. The king is a jazz fan, Hussein. And in Rubiyat we had lunch with the little princesses there. And if I hadn't been a musician, there's no way the average layman would be in that company you know. And I have enjoyed it. I have really, really enjoyed being in the music business. I thank God every night for giving me the talent and blessing me. MR: Wow. That's wonderful. Before we wrap up is there any- SE: Yeah, I'm getting hungry. MR: It's on its way. Is there any humorous or just really interesting stories you can share with us about either Basie or Joe Williams, the time together, that maybe we haven't read in a book. SE: Well there's not too much I could say about Joe because he wasn't with the band that I was with. I was with the original Count Basie band. MR: His hit came after your tenure - that "Every Day." SE: Oh, yeah. That's after I had left the band in the 50's. And Lester Young gave Basie the name of "Holy Man" because he carried the money. He was the "Holy Man." And we had to keep track of Basie so we could get paid. 'Cause he'd find a bar someplace and we wouldn't get any money. We didn't get no dough. It was so much fun you know. So many stories I could tell but you couldn't present them to the school, the stories. MR: Have to clean them up a little bit, huh? SE: You couldn't present them. MR: Where did he get the name "The Chief?" Do you remember that? SE: Well that was after I left the band. MR: It was "The Count" until a certain time when he became "The Chief." SE: He was the "Holy Man." He was the "Holy Man" and then the late band with Joe Williams and all of them, they called him "The Chief." See but before then, Lester Young named him "Holy Man." So everybody had a name. Lester gave everybody a name. And he was so full of humor. If someone new would come in the band, he had a little school bell that he'd put down beside him and if you didn't play the way that you should, I mean swing and everything, he'd take the bell and ring it. And Basie would give you a notice. MR: No kidding? SE: Yeah. It was a lot of fun, though. It was a lot of fun. MR: We have been trying to get with some of the alumni of the Basie band, what it was about their rhythm section that was so special? SE: I really don't know. They were just together. There is no explanation and you can't write what they played. It was a feeling that they had within themselves. They could feel each other. Whichever way that Jo Jones would go, Walter Page would go. And without Freddie Green, the rhythm section really wouldn't sound as full as it was with Freddie Green because he was the greatest rhythm guitar player that ever lived. And Jo Jones was so busy inventing a lot of things on the drums, that sometimes it didn't even swing. But whatever he was doing, the drummers are still doing it. And so many things that Jo Jones, he presented to the drummers nowadays. Like broken rhythms. I think Max Roach is the only one that really gives him - pays tribute to Jo. He used to play broken rhythms on the sock cymbal [scats]. Jo Jones was the first one to ever do that. And playing on the pipe with the sock cymbal with his stick - [scats] - because he was the first one to do that. But we used to look back and ask, what the hell's going on? It sounds like bells ringing back there. He said, "you play your instrument, and I'll play mine." So we had a good time. MR: It worked. SE: Yes it did, yes it did, yes it did. How about that salad? MR: Let's check it out. I'm going to say what a great pleasure it's been to speak with Sweets Edison here. We have just found out that you're going to be an Honorary Doctorate at Hamilton. SE: Oh, I can't wait. MR: That is going to be a thrill for us. SE: Yes? And I have a cousin now with a camera there, Michael Schultz, he's a producer in movies so this is, I think he and I are about the only two who are in show business or some kind of movies. He's a producer of movies. Much easier than playing the trumpet. MR: Playing the trumpet is one of the hardest things in the world. SE: Yes it is. It's a very physical instrument. Yeah. And you have to learn how to do things much easier as you get older, than you did when you were younger. MR: You can play from nine to four when you were younger. SE: Oh, yeah, couldn't do it now. But that is the advantage that the younger musicians have by studying their horn, they make things easier than I would make then because I've never been taught, see? But I can't wait to put the robe on and the cap. I have a Duke Ellington fellowship to teach at Yale. And Buck Clayton and I were given a doctorate from Harvard University before he passed away. But this is going to be something that I'm going to look forward to in May. Did you say May? MR: I did say May. SE: Well if it doesn't happen in May, I know some pretty good guys that will make it pretty hard up there on the campus. MR: Well we're on film now, so it's going to happen. Okay. SE: Well I'm looking forward to it. MR: Thanks so much for your time. SE: And thank you for inviting me. MR: It was a great thrill.



Born in Columbus, Ohio, United States,[1] Edison spent his early childhood in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was introduced to music by an uncle. After moving back to Columbus at the age of twelve, the young Edison began playing the trumpet with local bands.[2]

In 1933, he became a member of the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra in Cleveland.[1] Afterwards he played with the Mills Blue Rhythm Band and Lucky Millinder.[1] In 1937, he moved to New York and joined the Count Basie Orchestra.[1] His colleagues included Buck Clayton, Lester Young (who named him "Sweets"), Buddy Tate, Freddie Green, Jo Jones, and other original members of that famous band. In a 2003 interview for the National Museum of American History, drummer Elvin Jones explained the origin of Edison's nickname: "Sweets had so many lady friends, he was such a handsome man. He had all these girls all over him all the time, that's why they called him Sweets."[3]

"Sweets" Edison came to prominence as a soloist with the Basie Band and as an occasional composer/arranger for the band.[1] He also appeared in the 1944 film Jammin' the Blues.

Having joined the Basie Band in 1937, Edison spent thirteen years with Basie until the band was temporarily disbanded in 1950. Edison thereafter pursued a varied career as leader of his own groups, traveling with Jazz at the Philharmonic and freelancing with other orchestras.[1] In the early 1950s, he settled on the West Coast and became a highly sought-after studio musician, making important contributions to recordings by such artists as Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald. In 1956 he recorded the first of three albums with Ben Webster.

According to the Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies, Edison in the 1960s and 1970s continued to work in many orchestras on television shows, including Hollywood Palace and The Leslie Uggams Show, specials with Frank Sinatra; prominently featured on the sound track and in the sound track album of the film, Lady Sings the Blues. From 1973 Edison acted as Musical Director for Redd Foxx on theatre dates, at concerts, and in Las Vegas. He appeared frequently in Europe and Japan until shortly before his death. As the Los Angeles Jazz Society (LAJS) first Tribute Honoree, "Sweets" will always have a special place in the hearts of jazz fans.[4]

Edison died at his home in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 83.[5]


As leader/co-leader

As sideman

With Count Basie
With Harry Belafonte
With Louis Bellson
With Bob Brookmeyer and Zoot Sims
With Ray Bryant
With Hoagy Carmichael

With Benny Carter

With James Carter
With Dolo Coker
With Nat King Cole
With Clifford Coulter
With Bing Crosby and Buddy Bregman
With Sammy Davis Jr
With Billy Eckstine
With Duke Ellington with Johnny Hodges
With Herb Ellis
With Ella Fitzgerald
With Gil Fuller
With Dizzy Gillespie
With Jimmy Giuffre

With Al Grey

With Woody Herman
With Billie Holiday
With Red Holloway
  • Live at the Floating Jazz Festival (Chiaroscuro, 1997)
With Milt Jackson
With Illinois Jacquet
With Budd Johnson

With Jo Jones

With Quincy Jones
With Barney Kessel
With Carole King
With B.B. King
With Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich
With Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross
With Modern Jazz Quartet
With The Pointer Sisters

With Paul Quinichette

With Buddy Rich
With Shorty Rogers
With Frank Sinatra and Count Basie
With Mel Tormé
With Sarah Vaughan
With Lester Young
With Nancy Wilson
With Teddy Wilson
With various artists


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 117/8. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  2. ^ Reisser, Jean-Michel (June 22, 2009). "An interview with, a biography of, albums and CDs by the legendary jazz trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison".
  3. ^ "National Museum of American History" (PDF). Smithsonian Jazz. November 30, 2012. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  4. ^ "Harry "Sweets" Edison, 1983 and 1992". Los Angeles Jazz Society. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  5. ^ Ratliff, Ben (July 29, 1999). "Harry (Sweets) Edison, 83, Trumpeter for Basie Band, Dies". The New York Times.

External links

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