On this day in 1999 the world lost Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison.
As much as anyone, he made the sounds that we associate with Frank Sinatra. Sweets’ muted trumpet is the soundtrack to the soundtrack.
If you’ve ever heard a classic Sinatra song – especially one orchestrated by Nelson Riddle or with the Count Basie Orchestra – you’ve heard Edison. His distinct sound can be heard here throughout It Might As Well Be Swing and one of the greatest live albums of all time, Sinatra at the Sands.
Just listen to the opening track on Swing. The trumpet punctuating Fly Me To The Moon is Sweets. It was played to the astronauts on Apollo 11 fifty years ago.
His understanding of mood helped make Sinatra the artist and legend we know today. In fact, throughout the album, when you hear that muted trumpet, you understand just how important he was to complete the Sinatra sound. Sweets brought light and shade that Sweets light and shade to Sinatra’s recordings.
As Miles Davis explained it:
Music is about style. Like if I were to play with Frank Sinatra, I would play the way he sings, or do something complementary to the way he sings. But I wouldn’t go and play with Frank Sinatra at breakneck speed … The way you play behind a singer is like the way Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison did with Frank. When Frank stopped singing, then Harry played. A little before and a little afterwards, but not ever over him; you never play over a singer. You play between.
No one did that better than Sweets.
And for almost all his career, he couldn’t even read music.