The Bumble Bee's View of the Garden:
Opinions on Jazz and other topics
This time the Bumble Bee buzzes up to Durham, NH, for a very special event.
On Thursday evening, December 14, the Jazz trumpeter/flugelhornist and educator Clark Terry celebrated his 80th birthday and he chose to celebrate it at the University of New Hampshire. Clark has had a long-standing relationship with the University which goes back a quarter-century and has included an annual residency and the first of his honorary doctorates (he currently holds ten of these). At his age many would sit back and be entertained by their students and colleagues. Not so Dr. Terry, who treated us with a concert of at least two hours duration, in which he performed with his current working band, a big band of UNH alumni who have benefitted from his guidance, and a special reunion with trombonist Bob Brookmeyer and pianist Roger Kellaway, with whom he played in one of the most popular small jazz groups of the ‘60s, the Clark Terry - Bob Brookmeyer Quintet.
For those of you unacquainted with this great American musician, here is brief biography. Born 1920 in St. Louis, he worked at a respectable level from early in his career. Before entering the Navy in 1942 he had worked with the legendary river boat band leader Fate Marabel. Many great Jazz musicians worked the boats with Fate Marabel, including Louis Armstrong. He also worked with the great blues singer Ida Cox.
In the Navy he played in an "all-star" band stationed at Chicago, and therefore was able to remain in contact musically and socially with the Mid-western music scene, which was very strong at the time. After his discharge in 1945 Clark found steady, if varied, work with the likes of Lionel Hampton, Charlie Barnet and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, among others, until 1948 when he joined Count Basie. Basie kept him in his septet after he disbanded the big band in 1950. Basie reorganized the big band in 1951, but Duke Ellington managed to enlist Terry first. Clark stayed with the Duke for eight years. In the 1960's he was often featured as a member of Doc Severensen's Tonight Show band and was in demand for studio work in NYC.
The seventies saw Terry become very active as an educator in university clinics. In the early 1970's, Duke Ellington wrote in his memoire, Music Is My Mistress, "Although I don't think he has had the recognition he deserves, there is one area I know where he is very much appreciated. He is a busy man, but he always finds time to help the college bands around the country, and I am sure many a youngster has been inspired by him both as a man and as a musician."
The concert began with Clark's working band which includes Dave Galsser, alto sax, Don Friedman, piano, Marcus McLaurine, bass and Sylvia Cuenca, drums. One could have been satisfied with this band alone. Dave Glasser showed himself a worthy front line partner for the mighty CT. Still, in spite of being fifty years CT's junior, it took all of Glasser's youthful energy to keep up with his boss who set the pace with several blistering solos. Don Friedman is a highly regarded veteran whose work I knew only from recordings. I found it a great pleasure to hear him in person for the first time. Veteran bassist Marcus McLaurine and the young and dynamic drummer, Sylvia Cuenca, took care of business with solidity and flair. Ms. Cuenca also contributed a tune and arrangement. She is definitely some one to watch and listen for in the future. The band was also joined by Lesa Terry on violin and vocal for a Happy Birthday blues. Ms. Terry's wonderfully voice-like playing delighted everyone and was the first of several surprises during the evening.
Clark performed next with UNH Alumni Jazz Ensemble which played a group of marvelous charts, including specially written ones from Frank Mantooth and Hal Crook, who joined Clark and the band on trombone. Then, during a performance of "Perdido," one of Terry's feature numbers from his tenure with Duke Ellington, the band was joined by the great veteran trumpeter Snooky Young who engaged in a spirited exchange with members of the trumpet section. Needless to say, the band played beautifully.
Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer started their much-loved quintet in August of 1961 and kept it going for five years, albeit intermittently due to their many other commitments. In 1964 pianist Roger Kellaway joined the group. For the first time in thirty-five years these three wonderful players reunited to revisit some of the gems from their book, including a double vocal by Clark and Roger on Chubby Jackson's "Lemon Drop." In the middle of the set Herb Pomeroy came out to serenade Terry, and the rest of us, with a performance of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing." I was told later that Kellaway had never performed this tune before, or at least could not remember the last time he had, but one never would have known this from the beautiful support he gave Pomeroy.
The concert concluded with Clark assuming his alter ego of "Professor Mumbles," who, with the assistance of the Alumni Jazz Ensemble, discoursed on the major issues of the day to the delight of everyone present. Thank you Clark Terry for all your generosity, through the years and on this joyous evening.
Although Lowell has seemed a home away from home to me for many years now, I do not live there. Therefore I am sometimes ignorant of some of the things going on around town. Only recently did I become aware of the fine Jazz on weekends at Ricardo's, 110 Gorham St., Lowell, which goes along with the fine food served there. I, myself, like hanging out at the bar where I can be close to the music. For information you can call them at 978-453-2777 or visit their Web- site http://www.ziplink.net/~ricardos.