Harry Edison

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Harry Edison
Edison in Paris, France, 1980
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

Harry "Sweets" Edison (October 10, 1915 – July 27, 1999) was an American jazz trumpeter and a member of the Count Basie Orchestra.[1] His most important contribution was as a Hollywood studio musician, whose muted trumpet can be heard backing singers, most notably Frank Sinatra.


Edison was born in Columbus, Ohio, United States.[1] He spent his early childhood in Louisville, Kentucky, being 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. Speaking in 1956 with Down Beat's Don Freeman, Edison explained the origin of his nickname:

Well, this happened one day in March back in '37. All of us in the Basie band were sitting around the lobby of the Woodside Hotel in New York. It was snowing outside, and we were waiting for the bus to go on a tour of one-nighters. We were all like brothers in that band. I was kind of the baby of the band and took a lot of the ribbing. So this time Lester Young was joshing me about my 'sweet' style and he said: "We're going to call you 'Sweetie Pie.'" They did, too, for a few months. Then they shortened it to "Sweets." The nickname has kind of lasted a long time.[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.

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, Nat King Cole, Billy Daniels, Margaret Whiting, Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald.[4] He worked closely with the arranger Nelson Riddle, who gave Edison a microphone that was separate from the rest of the trumpet section.[5] He made use of a Harmon mute to improvise his solos and obbligatos. 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.[6]

Edison died of prostate cancer at his home in Columbus, Ohio at the age of 83.[7]


As leader/co-leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With Count Basie
With Harry Belafonte
With Louie 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
With Frank Sinatra and Count Basie
With Mel Tormé
With Sarah Vaughan
With Lester Young
With Nancy Wilson
With Joe Williams
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". Cosmopolis.ch. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013.
  3. ^ Freeman, Don (January 25, 1956). "After 17 Years, Edison Is Taking Lessons". Down Beat. p. 33. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  4. ^ "Obituary: Harry Edison". The Independent. July 29, 1999. Archived from the original on May 9, 2022. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  5. ^ Ratliff, Ben (July 29, 1999). "Harry (Sweets) Edison, 83, Trumpeter for Basie Band, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  6. ^ "Harry "Sweets" Edison, 1983 and 1992". Los Angeles Jazz Society. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
  7. ^ Ratliff, Ben (July 29, 1999). "Harry (Sweets) Edison, 83, Trumpeter for Basie Band, Dies". The New York Times.

External links[edit]