Harry “Sweets” Edison – Sweetenings – Roulette SR 52023 (1958)/Pure Pleasure PPAN R52023 (2015), 32:46 mono vinyl ****:
(Harry “Sweets” Edison – trumpet; Jimmy Forrest – tenor saxophone; Jimmy Jones – piano; Kenny Drew – piano; Joe Benjamin – doublebass; Charlie Persip – drums)
Harry “Sweets” Edison enjoyed three careers. He came to initial prominence with Count Basie. There (thanks to Lester Young and others), he picked up his nickname and became a longtime (twelve years) member of one of the greatest big bands in any era. The second installment was as a highly in-demand Hollywood session musician. He was featured on several movie scores, including Oklahoma and The Man With The Golden Arm. In a surprise move, Edison turned his back on the lucrative movie business, and moved to New York. There he realized his musical vision as a jazz artist, signing with Roulette Records. ”Sweets” Edison recorded for more than forty years, played with jazz giants and joined their legendary ranks.
Pure Pleasure Records has released Sweetenings (1958), re-mastered to 180-gram vinyl. Part of the Birdland Sessions, there are twelve concise tracks that focus primarily on the trumpeter. Utilizing standard and jazz originals, Edison glides through the material in a seamless fashion. Opening Side A is the bluesy groove, “Centerpiece”. A future standard, this is the song’s debut in jazz circles. Sweets inimitable trumpet lines are crisp and soulful. He is occasionally joined by Jimmy Forrest in a harmonic chorus. As described in the superb liner notes by Leonard Feather, “low-key” jazz defines the arrangements. Transitioning to a jauntier pace, “Candy” (a recognizable vocal song) is medium swing. Edison’s warm playing has a resonant familiarity that injects the accessibility of a singer. The doublebass (Joe Benjamin), drums (Charlie Persip) and piano (Jimmy Jones) form a cohesive rhythm section. Reaching back to his days with Count Basie, “Jive At Five” has an expanded arrangement with some descending chords. This finger-snapping jam features some tonal stretching on the horn and a brief piano chord interlude.
Switching to muted trumpet, the Burke/Van Heusen standby “Imagination” approximates a ballad vibe, but has a sustained, gentle rhythm. Edison offers some trilling accents. “Louisiana” is notable vampy, with an infectious medium-tempo and a walking bass line. On another original “Harriet”, Edison is back on open trumpet for a bluesy jazz interpretation. New pianist Kenny Drew gets a rare opportunity for a reasonably longer solo. Again, the relaxed wailing is unique and cannot be mistaken for any other horn player. Turning to Side B, the quartet covers the popular Sinatra tune, “It Happens In Monterey”. Here, Edison opens up and wails. Additionally there is a nimble tempo shift at the close. Back with his muted horn, “If I Had You” is tender with a delicate sway. Here Edison shows off his vibrato expertise.
Up tempo numbers seem to be the strength of the ensemble. “Paradise” has a controlled energy, and plays off the band’s cohesion. Edison displays bravura staccato riffs. Perhaps the liveliest cut is the eternally appealing “Indiana”. Forrest solos before handing it over to Sweets. The roots of big band are prevalent. The other band members finally cut loose on “Pussy Willow” another up tempo arrangement. Forrest gets two solos and Edison looks to push the outer, shriller tones on his horn. Jimmy Jones and doublebassist Benjamin both solo. This is easily the most unbridled group interaction. The title finale is bluesy, and Sweets amps up the vigor with his swinging muted runs.
Pure Pleasure Records has done a tremendous service to this recording by re-mastering it to 180-gram vinyl. The understated instrumentation glows in the remastered mono reproduction. Edison’s horn is crisp and mellifluous. The band is mixed quietly underneath the trumpet and the volume levels reflect the intended subtlety of this musical venture. Sweetenings is eminently listenable!
Side A: Centrepiece; Candy; Jive At Five; Imagination; Louisiana; Harriet
Side B: It Happened In Monterey; If I Had You; Paradise; Indiana; Pussy Willow; Sweetenings