Goodbye, Clark Terry

cterry

So sad to hear of the passing of the great Clark Terry, although he has been ill and in failing health for a long time.

Terry was a superb trumpeter and flugelhorn player, a technically brilliant instrumentalist, sublime improviser and high-impact teacher whose playing always exuded real joy, and great and infectious good humor. A veteran of the Duke Ellington and Count Basie bands, he was also part of the “Tonight Show” band; he was the first black musician on staff at NBC.

I was a teenager when I first heard and met Terry, playing with the house trio at the old  Buena Vista Village lounge near Disney World. I treasure the elaborate autograph he gave to me, writing his name and a little trumpet figure in red ink on the inside of a double-record live recording on the Pablo label.

Terry’s sound was instantly recognizable — that lilting, effervescent tone, those speedy lines, witty quotes, and musical jests. His collaborations with Oscar Peterson were among Terry’s best work, IMO.

As it’s Oscars night, I’ll recommend a documentary ignored by the Oscars, the very moving “Keep on Keepin’ On.” It’s an account of the ailing Terry’s friendship with young blind pianist Justin Kauflin. It doubles as a tale of friendship and an overview of Terry’s remarkable rise from poverty to a position as one of the world’s greatest jazz musicians.The film was directed by Alan Hicks, a drummer and a former student of Terry’s.

Clark Terry was a great musician, and a great man. He won’t soon be forgotten.