The News About Clark Terry

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.

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  1. Charlton Price says

    I think his diabetes was diagnosed as long as 30 years ago. “Unquenchable spirit,” indeed! Despite ever increasing physical challenges, CT until recently has been everywhere for gigs, concerts, recordings, and time with friends, fans, and students. No one has done more, or more creatively, in jazz education. And, with wife Gwen’s help, he completed an autobiography which tells, in authentic Clark-ese, like it is and was — from the humblest beginnings into six decades or more of exceptional inspiration and leadership in the music. At you can read and hear all about it.

  2. says

    “A speedy recovery”, and a happy birthday in advance to Master CT also from Cologne. Clark Terry is a great fighter. And even if there was something like “a CT sound-alike button”, Doug, I would hesitate to use it. (My old Conn hasn’t even a BL sound-alike button; now, when I would be pushing the CT-button, there would be a lot of confusion.)

    Dear Clark Terry: You gave us so much joy, and (not only trumpet) goals to go for. Without you, the world would be a very sad place.

    You said something in one of Bret Primack’s documentaries which I will never forget. It has nothing to do with music. It’s a wise advice to all of us; and we would be inhuman fools, not to follow it:

    “Be good to yourself, and try to be good to others. Particularly kids.”

  3. Anand Doraswami says

    I first heard Clark on the Voice of America’s Jazz Hour, compered by the incomparable Willis Conover. He announced in a programme devoted to the Duke Ellington orchestra that the trumpet solo on the next number, Juan Tizol’s Perdido, was by CT. I was utterly charmed and hooked by CT for life. Unfortunately, we in India don’t get much jazz in music stores but whatever I have by Clark is a special treasure. I remember Nat Hentoff saying on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz a few years ago that when Clark goes on stage, he’s 22 years old! We wish you a speedy recovery. Your never-say-die spirit will, I’m sure, guarantee such an outcome.

  4. Jim Brown says

    Clark’s love and respect for his fellow man is on full display in the 2-DVD set that documents the Jazz Master Class he did for the NYU music department in 2004. There’s a nice set with Kenny Werner, Mike Richmond, and Billy Hart for a rhythm section, a short biographical intro by Gary Giddins, interviews with Clark, performances by a few of the students, and Clark’s interactions with them. All of the DVDs in this series follow a similar format, and are worth having

    Keep on keepin’ on, Clark. You’re a credit to the human race, and a national treasure.

  5. London Branch says

    Mr. Clark Terry I am sure you won’t remember me. We first met through Stanley Thomas, my high school band director when the Duke Ellington Orchestra played a concert at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois in 1954 or 1955. We later met again in Carbondale in 1976 during a reunion of the first Black musicians to attend the Navy Music School. I had the good fortune of participating in the oral history sessions as an interviewer. Your big band was to play a concert during the conference and Major Holly(Mule) was the bassist with the band, but had to return to New York before the concert. I had the honor and priveledge of playing the concert in his absence. That was one of the highlights of my career. I remember something you said to a saxpohonist, “Zoomer” as you called him during the rehearsal. His eyesight was bad and his glasses were “an Inch inch thick” and he apolgized to the band because he missed a few notes. You looked art with such love and respect and said “Zummer, we all remember when you could see around corners.” That statement has stayed with me all these years and I have told that story many times to my students when discussing the importance of expressing your respect for others who are deserving. I am certain that all of the musicians felt the same way, but you expressed it perfectly..

    I have always admired your spirit and musical enthusiasm. You have been one of America’s greatest musical ambassadors for many years and have set the standard very high for the rest of us. I only hope that young musicians will attempt to follow the example that you have laid out for us all, both as a musician and as a gentleman. You still have a lot of work to do. Get well and we are all be praying for you.

    With Much Love and Admiration,
    London Branch

  6. Elaine Fielder says

    Dear Clark, Loved your book. I sent a copy to Russell Malone (our mutual friend) We love you, and your gifts of joy to us all!