The news of Clark Terry’s latest setback has raced through the jazz community and much of the wider world. The trumpet and flugelhorn hero, whose 91st birthday will be next Wednesday, has been suffering from diabetes. The disease has seriously affected his eyesight. Last week it led to the amputation of a leg. Reports are that he is recuperating well and is in good spirits. On his recently established blog, a message from CT’s wife Gwen includes this:
When Clark talked with me about the decision that he was facing, he said, “Don’t worry. Just because you lose your leg, it doesn’t mean you’ll lose your life.”
The blog has a guestbook page on which well-wishers are encouraged to send him notes that Gwen will read to him. The blog’s audio background begins with Clark’s original “Mumbles” recording with the Oscar Peterson Trio and continues with samples from his discography.
My friendship with CT goes back to 1969, when we became acquainted over plates of jambalaya on a park bench in Jackson Square in New Orleans. Shortly after, he volunteered to get me the factory price on a Clark Terry model Olds flugelhorn like the one he plays in the video below. Unfortunately, the horn did not come equipped with a CT sound-alike button. Here he is with his quartet in 1985 at the Club Montmarte in Copenhagen, sounding like no one else. Duke Jordan is the pianist, Jimmy Woode the bassist, Svend Norregaard the drummer. The tune is one of CT’s favorites by his former boss, Duke Ellington.
I admire Clark’s unquenchable spirit. I wish him a happy birthday and a speedy recovery.