Clark Terry On Piano Jazz

Originally published on February 3, 2012 3:54 pm

Clark Terry plays the trumpet and flugelhorn, sings and composes — that's what he's done for more than 60 years. His earliest band experience was on the bugle with the Tom Powell Drum and Bugle Corps. In high school, he took up the valve trombone. Prior to entering the service, he played riverboat jobs in St. Louis, and then was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Station from 1942 to 1945. Upon his discharge, he found work with Lionel Hampton's band, and back in St. Louis with George Hudson. He rounded out the 1940s playing with bands led by Charlie Barnet, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Charlie Ventura and Hudson.

Terry's breakthrough job was with Duke Ellington, with whom he worked from 1951 to 1959. After working with Quincy Jones in '59, he found steady work as a freelance studio artist, also finding his way into the television studios. As a member of the Tonight Show orchestra, he came to prominence, primarily through his popular "Mumbles" persona and his unique way of mumbling a scat vocal solo. He worked and recorded with artists like J.J. Johnson, Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald, then co-led a quintet with Bob Brookmeyer. Thereafter, he led his own small and large bands, including his Big Bad Band, beginning in 1972. He also became part of Norman Granz's traveling all-stars in Jazz at the Philharmonic.

As a jazz educator, Terry was one of the earliest active practitioners to take time off from the road and enter the classroom by conducting numerous clinics and jazz camps; this passion for education led to the establishment of the Jazz Mobile in Harlem. A distinctive stylist on his horns, he remains an honored itinerant musician who has never let occasional illness or physical infirmity stand in his way.

Originally recorded Sept. 21, 1993. Originally broadcast Jan. 1, 1994.

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