Harry Sweets Edison
An interview with, a biography of, albums and CDs by the legendary jazz
“Beethoven” Jean-Michel Reisser added on June 22, 2009
Harry “Sweets” Edison: The One and
Harry "Sweets" Edison, The smooth and suave trumpeter, is a cohort of
orchestra leader Count Basie, a favourite of bandleaders Nelson Riddle, Neal
Hefti for example. His spare yet bluesy approach backed up great singers
such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Holiday, Billy
Eckstine, Carmen McRae, Dinah Washington, Joe Williams, Pearl Bailey, Diana
Ross, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Diana Krall etc. and shares
the solo spotlight with Jazz's greatest instrumentalists as Basie, Lionel
Hampton, Duke Ellington, Gerry Mulligan, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker,
Milt Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Wynton & Brandford Marsalis,
Terence Blanchard, Art Blakey, Charlie Haden, Zoot Sims, Joshua Redman,
James Carter etc.).
“Sweets” Edison, with his energetic yet reticent blowing style, bridges a
genre gap between the early classic jazz sound of Louis Armstrong and modern
bebop modes. Edison, who plays equally well in both styles, has 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 earns him the nickname "Sweets", given to him one day by
legendary tenor Lester Young when both were in Count Basie’s band.
“Sweets” is a true pioneer of jazz. An old-time home-spun boy, born in
Columbus, Ohio, he never knew with certainty even the year of his birth.
According to many biographies, he was born in 1915 but he always tells me
that he was born in 1913. Edison knows even less about his own father, a
Zuni Indian, a Native American of the Hopi (Apache) tribe and a drifter who
stays 6 months with Edison's mother before taking to the road and is rarely
heard from afterward. While his mother works to support the family, Edison
lives with relatives — first his grandmother and later his uncle in
Louisville, Kentucky, who is a coal miner and a farmer. It’s Edison's uncle
who teaches the boy to play the pump organ and to play scales on an old
cornet. Edison, who also listened to his uncle's records, is especially
inspired by the music of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith.
“I remember listening to a lot of Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. They
right away made a huge impact on me!” adds Sweets.
At the age of 12, Edison returns to Ohio to live with his mother, following
a bout with typhoid fever that nearly killed him. His mother, pleased with
his musical ability, buys him a trumpet and outfits him with a tuxedo. He
joins with a local bandleader, named Earl Hood, who encourages Edison to
play but refuses to compensate him initially for the trouble. Eventually
Edison manages to wangle 35 cents per night from Hood before moving to St.
Louis, Missouri, in 1933 to play with a new group called the Jeter-Pillars
Orchestra. From there he moves to New York City in 1937 to play with Lucky
Millinder's band on the recommendation of a friend who was impressed with
Edison's natural ability. Edison looses his job with the high-strung and
opportunistic Millinder when a new horn player, named Dizzy Gillespie, joins
the band; but Millinder rescinds and rehires Edison when Gillespie quits and
leaves Millinder stranded.
“Sweets” and the Count
In 1938, within months of his arrival in New York, Edison assumes a spot in
"Count" Basie's band as a replacement for Bobby Moore who falls ill.
The band performs largely out of Kansas City and travels extensively.
“That was in June 1938”, tells me “Sweets”, “When Lester loved somebody’s in
the band, he gave you a nickname like “Lady and your first name or your
family name. But for me, he found something else: “Sweetie Pie” and I still
don’t know why he gave me this.”
That’s a commentary on Edison’s musical style I would presume. I got may be
the right answer from guitarist Freddie Green (in the Basie’s band from 1937
to 1987) at the 1985 Bern Jazz Festival in Switzerland:
“Pres” (tenor Lester Young) gave him that name, “Sweetie Pie”, because his
tribute to his trumpet style and was a sound “so sweet it could rot a baby’s
teeth”! Later on, Basie shortenes it and nicknames him as “Sweets”. This one
sticks with the trumpeter for the rest of his life, even today! This one is
another huge trademark of his character.
Likewise his ability to control the tone of his trumpet brings him to the
forefront as a session musician, playing accompaniments for the most
respected vocalists of his time.
“Sweets” spends 12 years with Basie's unique ensemble in which all of the
musicians are treated as soloists and each in turn receives an opportunity
to bask in the spotlight. During those years with Count Basie, he develops
the sultry sound of his trademark horn style, spontaneously, while
performing with the great masters of Jazz: Frank Foster, Thad Jones, and
Lester "Prez" Young. Jazz is young at that time, and the dearth of written
music for the bands never worries “Sweets” Edison because he never learns to
read music in the first place. Neither is Basie worries as he instructs
"You sound good ... if you find a note that sounds good ... play the same
damn note every night!" chuckled “Sweets”.
On the road, Edison and Young lives as roommates, and in 1944 the two
appears together, in a famous short film called “Jammin' the Blues”,
produced by a new young impresario called Norman Granz, directed by
photographer Gjon Mili and performed by Robert Burks. This is a great
success and an important spotlight for “Sweets”, Lester and their musician’s
friends (Jo Jones, Barney Kessel, Sidney Catlett, Red Callender, John
Simmons, Marie Bryant, Marlowe Morris, Illinois Jacquet, Archie Savage).
He also participates at their second collaboration in 1950 with Ella
Fitzgerald, Lester Young, Flip Philips, Ray Brown,
Hank Jones, Bill Harris
and Buddy Rich called “Improvisation”. This one first comes out in 1994 on
VHS format, then reissued in 2007 in a double DVD still named
“Improvisation” but on which includes both of them in their entire version
for the first time (plus some unreleased films with Charlie Parker, Count
Basie, Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Oscar Peterson etc.) At the end of
the DVD, you find an interview of “Sweets” shooted in 1993, speaking about
these two very special short films. This is a must to have for any Jazz fans
In all, “Sweets” spends 12 unforgettable years with the Basie orchestra,
performing virtually every night, often in dancehalls. They travel
extensively throughout the United States, from the Fox Theatre in Detroit,
Michigan, to make-shift dance arenas in tobacco warehouses in the Carolinas,
frequently with blues diva Billie Holiday as their vocalist. The mood of the
times inspires spirited musical battles for dance-floor supremacy between
the big bands of the era. “Sweets” proudly recalls the élan of those days to
"If you messed with us, you found your hindquarters on the floor at the end
of the night. We didn't play around. We swung, and we kept swinging ... you
were in a big natural mess if you came up against us."
Studio Sessions, Solos, Tours by
Harry “Sweets” Edison
“Basie's band dissolved inadvertently in 1950” explains to me “Sweets”,
“while the group was in New Jersey and ran out of work for a time. Basie
left the whole band in a hotel and set out to find a gig for the orchestra
but got sidetracked in Chicago where he ended up working with a different
group.” “Sweets”, upon learning of Basie's extended side gig, packs his own
bags and moves to Los Angeles, California, where he makes contact with an
old acquaintance, a quick-witted friend who was well acquainted with Nelson
Riddle. With a generous recommendation, she introduces “Sweets” to the
prominent bandleader, and Riddle repeats the recommendation to a popular
Sinatra who insists upon auditioning the trumpeter.
“Sinatra was gratified”, adds “Sweets”. “He was a fantastic and a marvellous
guy, to be around and to work with. He impressed in fact that he funded
music lessons for me to learn to read music. Since this, I regularly
accompanied Frank for so many years: every where, in every studio recording
sessions, TV shows, movies, concert halls. He was Sensational!”
Frank gives to Nelson Riddle and to other arrangers and big band leaders
this precise simple order: “For “Sweets”, you have to give him a special
treatment: he plays what and when ever he wants. Don’t give him any charts.
He has the complete freedom of every thing he’s going to play or not”.
Knowing Sinatra’s hard conditions and desires, I think there’s no other
comment to say.
Throughout the 1950s and the 1960s “Sweets” works as a studio musician and
as a soloist, eventually establishing permanent residency in Los Angeles
because of the volume of studio work that brings him there repeatedly. He
has a non-pareil, beautiful, softly muted horn style.
“You can’t compete with “Sweets’ sound and time feel. It’s impossible”
notices Miles Davis.
Peterson explains to me: "Sweets” can say more with one note than
any other Jazz player alive.... An approach that stresses simplicity,
glorious tone, natural potency and an unmatched affinity. He is a unique
stylist in our music”.
Edison's ability to accompany singers without drowning out their voices
behind the trumpet is a rare feat; his soft tone distinguishes him from the
others and keeps him in demand as a background musician, especially for
singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee,
Pearl Bailey, Dinah Washington, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby etc.
In addition to travelling with the “Jazz at the Philharmonic” tour (with
Ella, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown, Flip Philips, JJ Johnson, Stan Getz, Gerry
Mulligan, Louie Bellson etc) and playing with legendary groups like Quincy
Jones', he frequently plays with Ben Webster, Barney Kessel, Johnny Hodges,
Shelly Manne, Jimmy Rowles, Frank Rosolino and in the Duke Ellington
orchestra as a special guest!
In 1959, when producer Norman Granz asks Duke who he wants to book for a
small group recording session, Duke immediately says: “Please, bring me
Additionally he records dozens of albums and performs on television
specials. He collaborates on movie soundtracks with Sinatra, Quincy Jones,
Benny Carter, Lena Horne,
Schifrin, etc. He spends time working behind
the scenes as a musical director for the acclaimed Josephine Baker, and he
plays with an assortment of great bandleaders and orchestras, including
Buddy Rich, Quincy Jones, Louie Bellson, Buddy Bergman and Henry Mancini.
He is the trumpeter and musical director of the movie and the soundtrack of
“Lady Sings The Blues” with great singer and actress Diana Ross in 1972.
In later years, the kindly and understated Edison has little but good things
to recall about Basie.
“Basie was my mentor, my father and brother. He did it so much to me … So
every time I got the opportunity to play again with him, I immediately did
it. I remember one time, in the 50’s, that I had a gig with my group in a
small town in about 200 km in the north of Miami, Florida. Basie played from
2:00 am to 6:00 am! Yes! That was like that in those days! When I finished
my gig, I took a car, went down to Miami and played with him for the rest of
the night! All the members of the band were so happy to see me there that
they gave me all the trumpet solos in the band! I was sitting just near by
the great drummer Sonny Payne. Good God that was really something! A great
early morning to remember to!” exclaims “Sweets”.
He and the other old members join the Count in performances on many
occasions until Basie’s passing in April 1984.
During the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, he travels around the world, teams up a lot
with another Basie alumni, the great tenor Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. “We had a
wonderful duo together. Many people thought and said that we played the same
way but that was not true. We were opposite on many levels, musically and
human but that was because we were different that our association worked so
well you know.”
After “Lockjaw” ’death, he continues to travel Europe and Japan repeatedly
on an annual basis until two months before his death.
The Nicest Guy -
Harry “Sweets” Edison
In 1991, Edison receives the National Endowment
for the Arts Award of Master Musician, and he’s inducted into the Jazz Hall
of Fame in 1997. “New York Amsterdam News” calls him "a celebrated elder
statesman" of the Jazz world, and his “Live in Copenhagen” album on
“Storyville Records” earns a gold record.
In 1998, he appears in Toronto, Ontario at the Montreal Bistro during the
JVC Jazz Festival. Additionally, he performs regularly in New York City,
even while maintaining his residence in California, and through the Duke
Ellington Fellowship Program, “Sweets” teaches seminars at Yale University.
To my own feeling, I can affirm that the nickname of “Sweets” is part
because of his affinity for women too. A proverbial ladies' man, he
appreciates women and his fans above all else, never taking either for
granted. Modest, but content with his special soft trumpet tones, “Sweets”
is very at ease with himself and with others. He never sought accolades and
is not competitive by nature. He is a musician above all else, making music
for the sake of the music. He is absorbed with playing and performing
according to his own personal style, a style that brings him the highest
respect and admiration of fellow colleagues and fans alike. Former Basie
trombonist Benny Powell, who comes to appreciate “Sweets” as a mentor,
maintains that he learned one lesson above all else from the classic
trumpeter: "economy of notes but the right ones. Every note you play has to
mean something. He was a master!”
“You hear two notes and you know that’s “Sweets” confirms me saxophonist
Frank Wess (another legendary Basie alumni) “He was the only one, both as a
musician as a man”.
“He was one of the greatest stylists in Jazz of all time” notes to me
legendary trumpeter Clark Terry. “And on top of that, when you listen to
him, you say “yes, that’s “Sweets” and you automatically smile. This is
really unique. He changed the way how to play this instrument”.
Dizzy Gillespie: “Many critics always saw and heard that my style comes from
Roy Eldridge, which is true. But for many things, not only how to play the
trumpet but the way to choose the notes, how to play them and how to phrase
all of them, I took that from “Sweets”. He really brought something new to
Another great trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (Lincoln
Center Jazz Orchestra) touts his ability to "play two or
three notes and carry the meaning of everything he wants to say. The
originality of “Sweets’ sound lay not only in his rhythmic choices, but also
in a direct, full tonal quality. So when the Basie band broke up in 1950, he
was well-equipped to strike out on his own and go further in his musical
adventures. Still today, he inspires me so much and all my colleagues I
The great late trumpeter Freddie Hubbard: “A very few musicians passed
across all decades. In terms of trumpet playing, Louis Armstrong does it of
course but “Sweets” is right up there too. He is unique, in every sense of
“Sweets” is dapper and debonair yet sensible and thrifty; he loves life and
lives well. Early in 1998, he leaves California and returns to Columbus to
reside with his daughter, Helena, to whom he’s known as a devoted father.
During an interview some months before he passes away, “Sweets” confides his
concern over modern electronic music a form that smothers the spirit of
jazz. He bemoans the synthetic music machines that prevailed in the
background of recording sessions and acquiesces his concern for the future
of jazz as an art form. He cautions against lack of innovation among turn
of-the-century Jazz Masters and extols the virtue of singularity of sound, a
Jazz player's greatest asset.
I ask him what is Jazz and Blues all about:
“Blues and swing are Jazz! You can separate them because they are the basic
ingredients of our music.”
I note him that a lot of musicians today play what they call the Blues but
it’s not the real Blues to my ears.
“I totally agree. You have to have lived the Blues to play the Blues, You
have to feel it".
Do you still practise your instrument?
“Oh yes sure! Even more than 10 years ago. The older you get, the more
difficult you have to keep your level at the top of your game. Trumpet is a
very difficult instrument”.
Back to Count Basie’s early days, I have been told that “Sweets” couldn’t
read any music when he first joined the band in June 1938.
“We didn’t have any music at that time. We just played what was said “riff
arrangements”. Then the music began more complicated and more elaborated. I
had to read music and I learned it from Buck Clayton who was so nice and so
patient to me.”
But how did you learn what to play?
“Everybody had played with Bennie Moten’s band. They all had notes to play
on, like, ‘One O’clock Jump,’ ‘Swinging the Blues’ and ‘Out the Window.’ For
these head arrangements, “The brass section would get together and set a
riff, and we’d all come back to the rehearsal hall.”
“Sweets” confess to me that he was very frustrated because not having been
in the band at the creation of the heads, when his colleagues played those
numbers fast, “You’re trying to find a note [for you to play] and its past.
They’re finished before you can find a note.”
What he means, Rowe interprets, is that as the music whizzed by, Edison
couldn’t find a note to fit the fleeing chord—and a note that Ed Lewis,
sitting next to him in the trumpet section, didn’t have.
“I really was disgusted,” Edison recalls “and gave Basie my notice. “Why?”
asked the Count. “You sound good.”
“Well, all these arrangements you play every night, I can’t find a note.”
“If you find a note tonight,” says Basie, “that sounds good, play the same
damn note every night.”
Encouraged by the boss to stay, Edison is in the band for 20 years, in and
out. Having found his notes, Sweets adds to me:
“I should have paid him to be in the band because I was having so much fun.
You couldn’t pay for that kind of education.”
Years later, there was to be a tribute to Count Basie at Carnegie Hall, and
that morning, in a rehearsal room nearby, an arrangement was distributed to
the Basie alumni, most of whom were in their 60s and 70s. They started on
the arrangement, and Sweets stopped the music. He told the arranger that he
was going to take some of the notes out of his parts, and slow down the
tempo. The arranger, who hadn’t been on one road trip with Basie, was smart
enough not to argue.
Sweets had not only found his notes long before that rehearsal, but he’d
also learned what notes not to play so that the music could breathe.
When you talk about Billie Holiday, he immediately tells: “Billie was a
fantastic singer and a beautiful Lady. One of the highlights of my career
was when she sang “Lover Man” and asked me to play with her. Can you imagine
that? I was certainly the youngest cat in the band. Wow!“
His hit tune called “Centerpiece” and becomes a Jazz standard for more than
five decades now. “Soon or later, when you play a Blues, you have to play
this melody” expresses to me master guitarist Kenny Burrell, “its
The lyrics are written by great singer Jon Hendricks: “That was really
difficult to find the right words for that one” mentions Jon, “because I had
to fit exactly the way that “Sweets” phrased it. The original title was
“Keester Parade” and I renamed it “Centerpiece” because of the lyrics.
“Sweets” finally decided to keep my new title, which is still a big honour
“Once you've heard it, you never forget it, this tune. The same with
“Sweets”. Nobody else even approaches the trumpet like he does: Never too
much and always plenty. He’s the greatest trumpet player to play along with
singers. He exactly knows how to play with you, how to answer you about what
you just sang … On top of that, he has some great sense of humour, both as a
musician and as a man. Every time I see him, I’m laughing so much. “Sweets”
is impeccable and incomparable” admits Ella Fitzgerald.
Ray Brown: “The amazing thing about “Sweets” was that he exactly spoke the
way that he played! He was really unique, the one and only. He was one of
the greatest Blues players that I ever heard and played with. Nobody can
play like “Sweets” man, nobody! Most of us, musicians, frequently quote “Sweets”‘s
phrases in our solos. Like Lester Young, “Sweets” had a big influence on us,
musicians, especially when we play some Blues.
On top of that, he always had stories to tell, very funny or bad some times
but all came from the real life. But the bad ones turned pretty soon to be
really funny; so funny that you would laugh for ever! Even today, we still
speak about “Sweets”’s stories and we immediately laugh. He had a very
special way to tell stories … It’s difficult to explain it. You had to hear
him! I miss him so much, the man and his trumpet.”
There are hundreds of “Sweets’ stories but a very few can only be told.
Tokyo, Japan in 1986, live at the “Blue Note”. Pianist Monty Alexander,
bassist Pierre Boussaguet, guitarist John Collins and drummer Bobby Thomas
Jr form this wonderful quartet. They have a special guest, Mr. Harry
“Sweets” Edison. This is the first day of their engagement and just some
minutes before the concert begins. French bassist Pierre Boussaguet is the
new member of the group. “Sweets” and Pierre never meet before. They just
talk about some tunes and chords to play for the up coming set. Monty
Alexander presents the trumpeter. He comes on stage. He asks Pierre
Boussaguet if they can play, just as duo, the tune “I Wish I Knew”.
At the end of it, during the applauses, he rushes to Pierre:
”I forgotten your name. What is your name?”
Pierre: “My name is Pierre Boussaguet”.
Pierre repeats: “My name is Pierre Boussaguet”.
“Sweets” doesn’t understand his name very well. “You’re French right?”
And “Sweets” goes to the microphone and says: “Ladies and Gentlemen, on
bass, coming from France, we have the wonderful Mr. Charles De Gaulle!”
This story is still told today among the musicians all around the world.
Regularly since, Pierre Boussaguet is mentioned about that famous one.
“Sweets” and Pierre loved each together. Since that unforgettable day,
“Sweets” always nicknames Pierre: “Charles De Gaulle!”
Harry “Sweets” Edison
was very concerned about teaching to the young musicians who wanted to know
and learn his incomparable experiences and thoughts about the music.
“He was really very helpful to me, to understand where I came from and where
I wanted to go” notes New Orleans trumpeter Nicolas Payton.
“He didn’t only teach you Music but LIFE!” adds French bass player Pierre
“For me, I got two real mentors in my early career, two musicians who took
care of me, who were all the time there to respond to all my questions, to
show me every thing I wanted to know about this music and life, all problems
about travelling, business, being myself and be a real true musician. My two
mentors are “Sweets” Edison and Ray Brown” tells me with a lot of emotion
master drummer Lewis Nash. “I was so blessed to have them with me”.
The enjoyable, the irresistible,
the incomparable, the impeccable, the alpha and omega -- which is the
beginning and the end -- the fantastic, the magnificent, the terrific, the
talented, the omnipotent, the sensuous, the luscious, the effervescent Harry
“Sweets” died in his sleep on July 27, 1999 in Columbus, Ohio.
Liner Notes by
“Beethoven” Jean-Michel Reisser taken from the
Harry “Sweets” Edison “The Swinger”,
The Complete 1958 sextet sessions with Jimmy Forrest featuring Buck Clayton,
Fresh Sound Records 547-2 (Order
the 1958 recordings released on 2 CDs in 2009 from
Jordi Pujol and I decided to integrate this great—almost forgotten—session,
I listened to it carefully because it had been 25 years since I last heard
it! After a couple of bars, it was clear to me that there were a few
mistakes on our information: Freddie Green was not the guitarist on CD-2
track five, nor was him on tracks six, seven, and eight on this same CD, as
it has always been written everywhere!
Freddie’s sound was bigger, clearer, deeper and more “aggressive” than this.
So, who was this strange, unknown guitar player? After considering it for
some time, the name of Steve Jordan (1919-1993) came to mind. Steve was a
regular in the New York City studios during the Fifties, especially for NBC.
He did several sessions with Sir Charles Thompson, Buck Clayton, Gene Krupa,
Benny Goodman et al. So I went back and gave those records a listen. It
seems I was right. Then I remembered something… I had heard from either Earl
Warren, Kenny Burrell or Buck Clayton, that Steve and Freddie were known for
filling in for one another during many sessions.
Specifically, there are 2 takes of “Memories of the Count” (CD-2). Freddie
Green plays on track 3 and Steve Jordan plays on track 8. The contrast
between them is really striking. Freddie Green uses his typical predominant
style one and two-note chords, with tenor voice-leading on the 4th string,
and chord changes that move directly from chord to chord. Steve Jordan, on
the other hand, uses full 3 and 4-note chords, and abundant
With some irony, then, this recording gives us Steve Jordan playing exactly
what many jazz guitarists and musicians have mischaracterized as the
“Freddie Green” style. The contrast between this and the genuine Freddie
Green, playing the way he actually played, makes a clear pedagogical point.
The title “Pussy Willow”, composed and arranged by “Sweets”, was given at
the Verve sessions on September 18, 1958 and then at the Roulette sessions
on November 12, 1958 too.
But these two songs are totally different!
After several researches in “Sweets’” whole discography, neither seems to
have been officially recorded again after these two sessions. So how can we
know the exact answer to this?
My guess is that “Pussy Willow” is the right name given at the Verve
The following hypothesis tries to shed light on the mystery:
Most of the time, “Sweets” did not have a title for his originals—many of
them Blues tunes—until after the recording sessions. As he recorded a lot
between September and December 1958, he may have called a second tune “Pussy
Willow”, not remembering that he had already used the title a few months
earlier. As many of us who were close to “Sweets” know, he used the words
“Pussy” and “Willow” liberally, which could explain part of this confusion.
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Harry Edison photographed by Duncan P. Schiedt in 1958.
Photo © Duncan P. Schiedt.
Harry Sweets Edison: The Swinger. Double-CD 1958 (2009). Order the
Ben Webster and Sweets Edison: Ben and Sweets. Recorded in 1962;
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Biography of Harry Sweets Edison by Beethoven Jean-Michel Reisser
Harry "Sweets" Edison, born in
Columbus, Ohio on October 13, 1915 is one of the all time greats of jazz. He is
best known for his poetic trumpet and his irresistible personal eloquence. His
music is poetry and his particular sound has become an unforgettable and
distinctive jazz classic.
Self-taught musician, “Sweets” started his career in 1933 with local band Earl
Hood, then with Jeter-Pillars Orchestra, with Lucky Millinder Band before making
that significant step to joining the great Count Basie Orchestra where he was
nicknamed "Sweets" by the phenomenal Lester "Pres" Young, and where he soon
emerged as a great virtuoso (1938-1950).
He then moved to California where he has been featured by most of the famous big
bands and orchestras, such as those of Buddy Rich, Quincy Jones, Louis Bellson,
Henry Mancini, and Nelson Riddle. Edison worked a lot backing Frank Sinatra,
some of his finest recordings and concerts ever. He also played a lot with
legendary singers as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole,
Johnny Mathis, Diana Ross,
Joe Williams, Sammy Davis Jr. and many others.
For several years he was the musical director for the incomparable Josephine
Baker, with whom he toured internationally. Since 1958, he led his own groups
which he travelled all around the world for almost forty years, especially with
tenor Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. He also found a home in film, TV shows and
soundtrack work. He rejoined Basie’s band on many subsequent occasions from the
fifties to the eighties.
He is a favourite and much-requested performer for jazz festivals
all over the world. He has composed numerous tunes which became Jazz standards
and recorded hundreds of recordings on his own or as a special guest also
(several with Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter, Milt Jackson and Ray Brown).
died in his sleep on July 27, 1999 at his home in Columbus, Ohio.
Harry Edison (left) and Jimmy Forrest photographed by Duncan P. Schiedt in 1958.
Duncan P. Schiedt.