Harry Edison: The Swinger

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Trumpeter Harry “Sweets" Edison is perhaps best known for providing chrome-tinged obbligatos behind jazz-pop singers. His muted trumpet can be heard playing tightly wound touches on the albums of singers such as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. When they paused between verses, arrangers had Edison fill the space. At times, he mirrored the vocalist's phrasing before disappearing back into the band.

But Edison was much more than a colorist or sideman. He recorded a wealth of leadership albums that provide an opportunity to hear more than just his brief metallic spray of notes. One of Edison's leadership gems is The Swinger. Recorded for Verve in September 1958, the album features Edison teamed with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest. They were backed by Jimmy Jones (p), Freddie Green (g), Joe Benjamin (b) and Charlie Persip (d,tympani).

Pairing the two players was a stroke of genius. Forrest had a powerful, blues-flavored sound and a smoky attack while Edison played high-register exclamation points with his muted horn. And both were enormously confident, hushed swingers, but their styles made for marked contrasts. When Edison and Forrest completed their solos on the album, Jimmy Jones often jumped in with a beautiful solo of is own. 

The complete album sessions include the Edison compositions Pussy Willow, Nasty, The Strollers, Fair Ground, Short Coat, Impresario and Blues in the Closet. The standards are The Very Thought of You, Sunday, Love Is Here to Stay, Ill Wind, Baby Won't You Please Come Home and How Am I to Know.

Originally, six songs were released on The Swinger while five others from the same session were released in 1960 on Mr. Swing. Two songs—How Am I to Know and Blues in the Closet weren't issued until the digital era.

Harry “Sweets" Edison died in 1999; Jimmy Forrest died in 1980.

JazzWax clips: Here's Baby Won't You Please Come Home...



And here's Impresario, with a terrific solo by pianist Jimmy Jones with Basie touches. Dig Freddie Green's rhythm guitar churning away...



Bonus: Here's Harry “Sweets" Edison behind Frank Sinatra in March 1956 on Nelson Riddle's arrangement of It Happened in Monterey...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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