Clark Terry Is 90

Today is Clark Terry’s 90th birthday. Admired for his trumpet, flugelhorn, singing and blues mumbling, Terry has been an idol of trumpet players since the teenaged Miles Davis took him for a role model in St. Louis in the 1940s. From his days with CharlieClark Terry, muted.jpg Barnet, Count Basie and Duke Ellington through his national prominence in the Tonight Show band and his long career as a leader and soloist, CT has been an inspiration to generations of musicians. It is a rare set in which Terry doesn’t include something by Ellington, whom he invariably calls Maestro. Here’s CT with his quartet at the Club Montmartre in Copenhagen in 1985. Duke Jordan is the pianist, Jimmy Woode the bassist, Svend E. Noregaard the drummer

From Jazz Matters: Reflections on the Music and Some of Its Makers, here is a passage from the chapter on Terry:

With Ellington, Terry blossomed. Duke’s genius for recognizing and capitalizing on the characteristics of his sidemen has rarely had more startling results than in the case of Clark Terry.
Ellington sensed in Terry something of the New Orleans tradition. When he was preparing A Drum Is A Woman, his suite in which New Orleans plays a large part, he chose Terry to portray Buddy Bolden. Bolden’s style is entirely legendary; no recordings of him are A Drum Is A Woman.jpgknown to exist. Terry recalls protesting the assignment.
“I told him, ‘Maestro, I don’t know anything about Buddy Bolden. I wouldn’t know where to start.’ Duke said, ‘Oh, sure, you’re Buddy Bolden. He was just like you. He was suave. He had a good tone, he bent notes, he was big with diminishes, he loved the ladies, and when he blew a note in New Orleans, he’d break glass across the river in Algiers. Come on, you can do it.’ I told him I’d try, and I blew some phrases, and he said, ‘That’s it, that’s Buddy Bolden, that’s it, Sweetie.’ That’s how Maestro was. He could get out of you anything he wanted. And he made you believe you could do it. I suppose that’s why they used to say the band was his instrument. The Buddy Bolden thing is on the record, and Duke was satisfied. So as far as I’m concerned, it was Buddy Bolden.”

On this auspicious day in Clark Terry’s long life, let us indulge ourselves in one of his great summit meetings. At the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1977, he, Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Lockjaw Davis and the Oscar Peterson Trio joined forces for the incomparable “Ali and Frazier,”introduced on this video by Norman Granz.

As Ken Dryden points out in the first comment below, “Ali & Frazier” is also on this CD.
Happy birthday, CT.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. Bruce Armstrong says

    Happy 90th birthday to a great player and a real “gentleman of jazz.” A real “super-pro.” To this day I still get a thrill out of his and Gerry Mulligan’s great solos & trades on “Blueport” with Gerry’s Concert Jazz Band on the “Live at the Village Vanguard” recording.Two jazz “giants” performing at the highest level. Timeless artistry.

  2. Charlton Price says

    CT has been preeminent as an educator, too. Hundreds of clinics. Centers established in his name at colleges in Iowa and New Jersey. He frequently involved others from his large circle of eminent peers and pals. As a fan, I was privileged to hang out at one such session 50 years ago, at Emporia State College in Kansas, when he and Moody ran a clinic or master classes for music students there. In the 1970s, the CT Big Bad Band was masterful, a special thrill. All-stars in every section. Many arrangements by Ernie Wilkins. Then Clark would take those charts to his clinics around the country. Among many honors here and abroad, recently he received a Lifetime Achievement Award — Doug, maybe you have details on that. It is an honor and a pleasure for all of us who care about this music to have been and to be in his company, now and always.
    (He will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award of the National Academy of Recordings Arts and Sciences at the Grammy awards ceremony in Los Angeles on January 31. He was named an NEA Jazz Master in 1991—DR)

  3. Ken Dryden says

    This terrific performance was issued on a Pablo LP/CD as the Oscar Peterson Jam, while it appeared a few years ago on DVD. Count Basie was credited with naming it, commenting on the three horn players battling it out “Just like Ali & Frazier.”

  4. Jack Tracy says

    This got serious. Dizzy and Clark, normally two smiling guys with effervescent onstage humor, cracked nary a smile and seemed to barely acknowledge each other as they turned on all the burners in some fierce competition, while OP and Jaws were notably enjoying the proceedings. Wonderful music that makes one regret that the jam sessions which used to be jazz’s proving grounds are heard no more