Harry Edison and His Orchestra: Sweets

The trumpeter's well-judged 1956 date with Ben Webster and Barney Kessel is reissued and augmented with tracks from a 1957 session


Read this very carefully, because I will write it only once. First released in 1956, Sweets remains one of Edison’s finest studio recordings. He is accompanied by the incomparable Ben Webster (to whom he allocates major solo space), a down-home Barney Kessel, and an authoritative Jimmy Rowles, who are more than ably supported by Mondragon and Stoller.

Every title is pure joy. Some examples: Hollering At The Watkins, the opening track, and one of six composed by Edison, sets a jumping pace with solos by Webster and Kessel followed by a fleet-fingered Rowles before a muted Sweets enters the fray with a passing quote from the pop song Put Another Nickel In. A gently swinging Used To Be Basie has a long solo from the leader, one of his all-time best.

On How Deep Is The Ocean, Sweets cherishes the melody before Ben (at his most Websterish) makes a notable contribution. As on all the subsequent cuts, everything falls into place. The final offering and longest track at (7.15) – Walkin’ With Sweets – has him paired with and responding to a sonorous Webster, with Kessel and Rowles offering sensitive accompaniment.

In his original liner note Nat Hentoff suggests that the entire proceedings demonstrate “the essence of muscular relaxation, the flowing swing, and the natural spontaneous expression of emotion that is the mainstream of jazz”. He adds “Ben plays some of his most moving horn in recent records (and) Sweets is superb.” There is little to add to that encomium – except to urge anyone who has never heard this remarkable session to rectify the omission immediately.

This welcome reissue also comes with four equally delightful tracks from an obscure LP Some Of My Favourites, with Red Norvo, Bob Carter and Bill Douglas backing Edison, Webster and Rowles. Again, and under Norvo’s sensitive guidance, they offer gently swinging readings of four of his compositions. There is little to choose between these titles – all are excellent – but Sunrise Blues, with long solos from Norvo, Rowles and Webster, with Sweets at his superlative best hits the spot. On all counts, an essential record.

(1) Hollering At The Watkins; Used To Be Basie; How Deep Is The Ocean; Studio Call; Willow Weep For Me; Opus 711; Love Is Here To Stay; K.M. Blues; Walkin’ With Sweets; (2) The Night Is Blue; Easy On The Eyes; Just A Mood; Sunrise Blues (75.55)
(1) Edison (t); Ben Webster (ts); Jimmy Rowles (p); Barney Kessel (g); Joe Mondragon (b); Alvin Stoller (d). Los Angeles, 4 September 1956.
(2) Edison (t); Webster (ts); Rowles (p); Red Norvo (vib); Bob Carter (b); Bill Douglass (d). LA, 18 January 1957.
Poll Winners Records PWR27202