I met Harry Edison’s mother, Mrs. Kitty Redmond, in 1981. She was living in Poindexter Village, in East Columbus, she was very pleasant and personable. She would tell me about her famous son, where he was traveling in the world and when he would be home.
His legend was made in his eleven year with the Count Basie Orchestra that lasted until 1950. In 1944, he played a prominent role in perhaps the finest jazz film ever made, Jammin' the Blues. Basie's orchestra disbanded temporarily in 1950, and thereafter Edison pursued a varied career, leading his own groups, traveling with Jazz at the Philharmonic, and working as a freelance with other orchestras. In the early 1950s he settled on the West Coast, where he became highly sought-after as a studio musician, recording extensively with Frank Sinatra. He regularly led his own group in Los Angeles in the 1960s and he rejoined Count Basie on several occasions.
Harry continued travel and appearing worldwide, jazz festivals in Europe, concerts in Japan, clubs in the United States. But in 1999, he retired to Columbus, where his daughter, Helena, had settled. He was honored by the Columbus Senior Musicians Hall of Fame in June of that year, wearing a beautiful chocolate brown suit and matching hat, as he sat for a photograph that afternoon.
Harry “Sweets” Edison died of cancer the following month, July 27, 1999 at age eighty-two. I served as a pallbearer and played horn for his celebration at the Glen Rest Memorial Gardens in Reynoldsburg.