Sunday, December 25, 2016

Clark Terry - Parts 1-3 Complete

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Clark Terry died on February 21st. He was ninety-four [94] years old [born: December 14, 1920].


With the following introductory caveat by Gene Lees in mind, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought perhaps that the very best way to present an extended feature on this revered Jazz master was by sharing this thoughtful essay about Clark that begins in the January 1998 edition of Gene’s Jazz Letter.


Stay with this one and the two-parts that will follow as I guarantee that hangin’ out with Clark Terry is one of the most informative, pleasurable and fun experiences in Jazz that you'll ever have.


If as bassist Bill Crow maintains -“Jazz is supposed to be fun” -  then no one ever had more fun playing Jazz than Clark Terry.


“In the past few years, I have been only too aware that primary sources of jazz history, and popular-music history, are being lost to us. The great masters, the men who were there, are slowly leaving us. I do not know who said, "Whenever anyone dies, a library burns." But it is true: almost anyone's experience is worth recording, even that of the most "ordinary" person. For the great unknown terrain of human history is not what the kings and famous men did — for much, though by no means all, of this was recorded, no matter how imperfectly — but how the "common" people lived.


When Leonard Feather first came to the United States from England in the late 1930s, he was able to know most of his musical heroes, including Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. By the end of the 1940s, Leonard knew everybody of significance in jazz from the founding figures to the young iconoclasts. And when I became actively involved in the jazz world in 1959, as editor of Down Beat, most of them were still there. I met most of them, and became friends with many, especially the young Turks more or less of my own age. I have lived to see them grow old (and sometimes not grow old), and die, their voices stilled forever. And so, in recent years, I have felt impelled to do what I can to get their memories down before they are lost, leading me to write what I think of as mini-biographies of these people. This has been the central task of the Jazzletter.


When I wanted to know something about one aspect or another of music history in the 1960s, I could pick up the telephone and call these older mentors, such as Alec Wilder or my special friend Johnny Mercer, or Robert Offergeld, music editor of Stereo Review when I wrote for it and one of the greatest scholars I have ever known. If I wanted to know something about the history or the technique of film composition, I could telephone my dear, dear friend Hugo Friedhofer, who wrote his first film music in 1929. There was nothing worth knowing about film music that Hugo didn't know; and not much for that matter about the history of all music. I can't call Hugo any more. Or Dizzy. I can't call Glenn Gould either. Gerry Mulligan was ten months older than I. Shorty Rogers died while I was researching the Woody Herman biogra­phy; I was to interview him in a week or two.


Now, when my generation is gone, there will be no one much left who knew Duke Ellington and Woody Herman and Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. All future writers will be depen­dent not on primary sources, which all of these people were for me, but on secondary sources, which is to say documents. And earlier writings. And I have found much of the earlier writing on jazz, such as that of John Hammond and Ralph J. Gleason, to be unreliable — sloppy in research, gullible in comprehension, and too often driven by personal and even political agendas. Errors — and lies — reproduce themselves in future writings.”


“In May of 1955, just before Derby Day, I took up permanent residence in the United States, arriving in Louisville, Kentucky, to become classical music critic and later music and drama editor of the Louisville Times. One of the first things I did was to seek out the best local jazz musicians, both black and white. That was after I assimilated the shock of seeing, on my arrival, signs on the toilet doors of the Louisville and Nashville Railway station that said Colored and White. But there were other shocks as well, some of which I would understand only in retrospect. For example, when in 1956 I was to interview Nat Cole at lunch, he invited me to his hotel and he ordered our lunch sent to his room. He was such a gracious man, elegant and somewhat shy, and I was in such awe of his talent that I did not then ponder the significance of this. It had been only days before this that he had been attacked on a stage by racists in Alabama, his native state. As far as I can remember, he never mentioned the incident and I didn't ask. We talked about music, throughout a long and lovely afternoon, and much of what I learned from him affects me to this day. It was only later that I mused on why we had lunch in his room, rather than the restaurant. The answer is only too clear. Under considerable pressure, Louisville had desegregated its school system — the first southern city to do so, by the way — and had partially desegregated its hotels. It was all right, apparently, to let some of Them stay at your hotel, hidden away in Their rooms. But They must not eat in your restaurant.


Nat Cole and I would not have been allowed to enter the dining room.


He knew this. I didn't. I was not long out of Canada. It is not that there was no prejudice in Canada. But it was not, as Oscar Peterson has pointed out, the same. There was no segregation of the school system. And there was no entrenched, institutionalized, and lethal system of social separation. Dark stares and covert discrimination were the lot of Oscar Peterson, not near escapes from lynching, as in the life of Clark Terry. In Montreal, my late friend Cedric Phillips, a pianist and singer from Barbados, and I could go to restaurants and bars together and no one bothered us. But Nat Cole and I could not have gone to that dining room in Louisville.


One of the things I encountered in Louisville was the richness of southern black speech. One of my friends there was a guitarist named John Woods, whom I have never forgotten. He was also a janitor at my newspaper. When John — and any other black friend - and I wanted to listen to records together, I had to enter my apartment building, go back and open the fire escape door at the rear of the Adams House, as that apartment building was called, and sneak up the fire stairs.


John not only was a very good guitarist, he had an incredible flair for language. This southern richness of speech, I have concluded, comes from two traditions, the Irish and the African. Out of this have come some wonderful writers, Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, and William Styron among them.


John one day was talking about a girl he had once loved. This was not sexual boasting, which I detest, but a romantic remembrance. He talked of her passion. He said that when he was making love to her, "she like t'clawed de paper off de wall," and, he said, "When I took it out, she groaned, like I took a knife out of a wound." Gawd-damnl That is poetry, not pornography.


It was in Louisville that I first encountered the term motherfucker. It shocked me deeply. When I hear it used in a movie set in, say, the 1930s, I find it disconcerting, because it was not in widespread use before, perhaps, the 1960s. What made the term so electrifying is that it seemed to refer to the ultimate and Oedipan taboo, fucking your mother. But that is not what the term means. It is a black term applied to whites, an echo of slavery: it means the monster who fucks my mother. Whites who use it don't know that this is the meaning; but then I doubt that many blacks know it either, just as young blacks do not know the term ofay for a white, piglatin for foe. It has almost vanished, and using it will betray your age, exactly like other once-hip terms such as groovy. Dig, on the other hand, has become part of American speech, as has much black vernacular transmitted through white jazz musicians to other white entertainers and thence to the vast white American — and eventually world — audience. If the extent of black influence on American and world music is little remarked, even less so is the influence on the English language. You'll see latch onto in the New York Times; it was once inside black speech.


My involvement in jazz, which is not something I sought but something that was in a sense inevitably imposed on me, has enriched my life with an enormous number of black friends. It also enriched my language (as my involvement with French, Spanish, and Portuguese did too) with not only vocabulary but also an altered sense of locution.


It has, however, presented me with a dilemma, both as a writer and as an editor. Realizing the ignorance of most whites about black speech, I often found myself tempted to edit quotations so that a white reader would not ascribe ignorance to the subjects of my pieces. This caused a subtle falsification. For example, double negatives are forbidden in English, on the rather dubious theory that two negatives produce a positive, a logic more appropriate to algebra than to language. Black Americans commonly use double negatives. They serve to intensify a given statement.


Grover Sales once did a retrospective on the career of Dizzy Gillespie for his jazz history class at San Francisco State University. Dizzy was there, moved to tears by it. One of the students asked him a question about jazz and serious music. Dizzy took exception to this, as well he should have, saying, "Men have died for this music. You can't get no more serious than that."


There is a temptation to alter that to "You can't get more serious than that," or, going further, the pedantic "You can get no more serious than that."


But either is wrong, misrepresenting Dizzy and in any event weakening his powerful rejoinder. What he said was as right as his choice of notes in his playing.


Somewhere or other, John Steinbeck wrote (and this is close to the quote), "Deprive the working man of his profanity and you make him mute indeed."


Thus it is with black speech. And there is much about black grammatical revisionism that is logically sound. Blacks frequently do not use the -s at the end of the third person singular. They are quite right about this; we should dump it, for English is not an inflected language, and this last vestige of present-tense inflection has no function. So too the -m at the end of whom, an attempt to impose case endings on a language to which they are now not natural. I would note, however, that Clark Terry uses "whom".


In quoting Clark shortly, I will alter nothing, except to excise occasional redundancies that occur in anyone's conversation, editing that I apply to my own writing.


Some years ago, writing a magazine article about him, I gave a lot of thought to the life and work of Clark Terry. I reflected on the classical trumpet literature, on the use of the instrument in all sorts of pre-jazz music, pondered his astounding flexibility and effortless expressivity, and concluded that he must be the greatest trumpet player in history. Not just jazz history, history. He is so individual that one can identify him not just in two or three bars but in two or three notes. Sometimes in one note.


Clark does a circus turn whose complexity is not always appreciated. He'll play trumpet with one hand, fluegelhorn with the other, in duets with himself. He does so with a joy and exuberance that is incredibly infectious, as indeed is all of his music. It must be remembered that his fingering is ambidextrous. But more to the point, he seems to be partitioning his mind. It may be fun to watch and hear; it is deeper than it looks, and it tells us something about the remarkable brain and neurological organization of Clark Terry.


Yet my admiration goes far beyond music. I will say something that will cause many musicians to say, "Yeah, baby!"


It is this: I don't like Clark Terry; I love Clark Terry.


I have no trouble understanding black Americans who hate whites. They're no mystery to me. But Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie, all devoid of racism, are a mystery. So is Clark Terry.


Clark Terry, like every other black in America, has had to suffer white racism all his life. But he is one of the very few black Americans to speak out openly against black racism, particularly in jazz. Some black Americans, among them Spike Lee, have denied that it exists, saying blacks are incapable of it, a fatuous casuistry.

For, as Oscar Peterson's sister Daisy said, when I was researching Oscar's biography, "Show me a race that is without racism." Oscar too has fought black as well as white racism. But no one has been as diligent, ardent, and outspoken about it as Clark Terry. He told me some years ago that his favorite drummer, for engagements in Los Angeles, was white. "And I get a lot of criticism from the Brothers for it," he said.


Over the years, I have been careful in interviewing "black" musicians about discussing race. It is not that I hesitated to discuss it. Much to the contrary. It is an area of deepest worry and interest to me. But precisely because of that interest, I came to wonder if I was guilty of, as they saw in law, leading the witness. And so in these conversations and interviews, I did not raise the subject, wondering if the subject could be avoided. It could not. Not ever.


In the 1960s, when jazz musicians made their New York headquarters in a bar called Jim and Andy's on the south side of 48th Street, just east of Sixth Avenue, Clark Terry was working in the NBC Tonight show band under the leadership of Doc Severinsen. I did not know then that he and Doc were especially close friends.

Rockefeller Center, where the show was taped, is one block up Sixth Avenue from where Jim and Andy's stood. J and A's, as we called it, which might have been named the Institute of Osmotic Learning, has long since been effaced, replaced by one of those undistinguished glass-and-steel verticalities that have stripped the character out of central Manhattan. Doc was often in there. So was Clark. I used to talk with him almost daily. The exchanges in Jim and Andy's were endless, and insights burgeoned and blossomed in one's mind. Many of mine came from Clark.


He was always busy, with the Tonight show band; with the quintet he and Bob Brookmeyer led in the early 1960s; with the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band (his recorded duet with Mulligan on News from Blueport, naming various cities through quoted song titles, is one of the wittiest bits of music I know); with guest appearances on the recordings of an enormous number of musicians; and with studio engagements of all kinds, up to (or down to) performances on the kazoo. And always the sunshine when Clark entered the Gymnasium, as Gary McFarland called J and A's.


Roger Kellaway played piano in the Terry-Brookmeyer quintet for two and a half years, starting in 1962, and made two albums with Clark, and did a good deal of studio work with him, back in the era when jazz musicians could pay the rent, even very high rent, by such engagements. Roger said, "Clark Terry is consistently one of the most up, positive human beings I have ever known. I can't remember a negative conversation, ever. He is always a joy to be around.


"And the music! Delightful, inventive, lyrical, and full of Clark's sense of humor. I have always looked forward to playing with him. It is one of those can't-wait-to-do-it situations."


When I see Clark at all now, it is for a few minutes between sets somewhere. We share as a greeting a whispered obscenity, a private joke that I will not tell you. But last fall, Clark played on the cruise of the S.S. Norway. We both had the 'flu, and spent a lot of time together, if only in commiseration. Much, but not all, of the conversations that follow occurred on that ship at that time, mostly in Clark's stateroom.


Whence this incredible flexibility? Is it a consequence of his having begun his career by playing a garden hose? I think perhaps it does.


Clark Terry was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on December 14, 1920, the son of a laborer at Laclede Gas and Light Company, the seventh of eleven children, seven of them girls. Before Clark's birth, one girl died. Clark's brothers never escaped the destiny of their father. Clark alone did.


In the history of music you encounter families in which music is the accepted and even expected profession: the two Johann Strausses, the Bach family (whose tradition may still be going on), Leopold and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the Casadesus family, the Brubecks, and many more. Then there are those in whom the imperative for an art seems to emerge from a genetic umbra, an atavism, boon perhaps of an unknown ancestor. Debussy, for example.


I'd known about the garden hose for years.


"I must have been ten, eleven years old," Clark said. "Twelve, maybe. My older sister's husband, Cy McField, played tuba in the Dewey Jackson band — Dewey Jackson's Musical Ambassadors — at a place called Sauter's Park in Carondolet in South St. Louis. That's where I was born.


"The park was all Caucasian. We were not allowed to go in there. Us kids, we'd walk down there, about three miles. Walk down to the end of Broadway, the county line. We'd stand up on something behind the bandstand and we'd listen to the band that way.


"I remember one cat who played in Dewey Jackson's band, Mr. Latimore. He was a big, huge guy, played lead trumpet. He used to like me and my brother-in-law used to take me to all the rehearsals. He'd say, 'Son, you can watch my horn.' And I'd say, 'Oh thank you,' and I'd literally sit there and watch his horn. After so many rehearsals, I became very very close to him. He owned a candy store, and he always kept a pocket full of caramels and mary janes, and he'd give me a couple of caramels and a couple of mary janes and sometimes a couple of pennies. He was the greatest cat in the world, so I wanted to play the horn he played. I'm glad he wasn't a banjo player!


"So one time they went on a break. He said, 'You watch my horn.' I said, 'Okay, Mr. Latimore,' and by the time they came back, I had been magnetically drawn to this horn, huffin' and puffin' away, trying to make a sound. And he walked in. He said, 'Ah, son, you're gonna be a trumpet player.' And I've always said, 'And I was stupid enough to believe him.'


"That, plus the fact that on the corner called Iron Street and Broadway, near where I lived, there was a Sanctified church. We used to sit on the curb and let those rhythms be instilled in us." Banging a beat with his hands, he sang against it a strong churchy passage. "You know, with the tambourines, and the people dancin' and jiggin' and all that. That was as much as you needed to be instilled with the whole thing.


"We had this little band. We used to play on the corner. My first thing was a comb and tissue paper. The paper vibrates. Then I came across a kazoo, which is the same principle. Later on in my life, we had to have kazoos as standard equipment in the studio. Sometimes we would have do little things when you were recording for different commercial products.

"We had a guy named Charlie Jones — we called him Bones — who used to play an old discarded vacuum hose, wound around his neck like a tuba, into a beer mug." Clark sang a buzzy bass line in imitation, mostly roots and fifths. "It was a better sound than the jug." The jug of course was the old earthenware jug used in country music and jazz.


"We had a cat who played the jug, too. With the two of them, we had a good solid foundation. My brother Ed played --we called him Shorts, he was a little short cat — played the drums. He took the rungs out of some old chairs for sticks. In those days we didn't have refrigeration, we had ice boxes, and when the pan wore out, started leaking and got rusty, it would sound just like a snare. They had those tall bushel baskets in those days, I haven't seen one in a long time. He'd turn one of those upside down and hang the old discarded ice pan on the side and take the chair rungs and keep a rhythm like that. He got an old washtub and put a brick and fixed it so he could beat it." Clark laughed that delicious and slightly conspiratorial laugh of his as he pounded a beat.


I said, "He sounds like some kind of a genius."


"Yeah!" Clark said. "He was. Well, I got an old piece of a hose one day and coiled it up and got some wire and tied it so that it stuck up in three places so it would look like valves. I took a discarded kerosene funnel and that was my bell. 1 got a little piece of lead pipe — we didn't realize in those days that there was lead poisoning — and that was my mouthpiece."


It struck me that Clark had invented a primitive bugle, on which he could presumably play the overtones.


"Yeah!" he said. "By the time I got into the drum and bugle corps, I had already figured out the system like the Mexican mariachi players use. They were taught back in those days to play the mouthpiece first."


He did a rhythmic tonguing like a mariachi player, then pressed his lips together and buzzed. "After a while I figured out how to change the pitch." Pursing his lips, he did a glissando, up one octave and down, flawlessly. "And then they could do that with the mouthpiece. After you got the mouthpiece under control, and you got a bugle, you could play notes. You could make all the notes that went from one harmonic to the other."


Never having seen Clark teach, I realized what makes him such an incredible — and so he is reputed — pedagogue, and why young people who study with him worship him. And all of it is communicated with laughter and a sense of adventure.


I told Clark of a conversation I had in the early 1960s with Jack Teagarden. Teagarden's group was playing the London House in Chicago. Jack and I were sitting in one of the booths, with conversations going on all around us. It was legend that Jack could play all sorts of notes in "false" positions on the trombone because, as a child with short arms, he could make them no other way. As we discussed this, Jack, very softly, played a major scale with the slide in closed position.


Jack said, "You should be able to play any note in any position. All the slide does is make it easier."


"Yeah, I agree," Clark said, laughing. "I'll never forget when I met Sweets Edison in the Basie band. Well, I knew him before that around St. Louis. That was before he really got known. He had an old Reynolds trumpet. It was an old, old, old brand. I don't think there's even one on the scene today. It was jammed, and you couldn't tune it. But Sweets could play the damn thing in tune! It was just his chops.


"This proves the important thing is the mastery of the embouchure. Like Jack proved to you."


I said, "You've never gone in front of the audience with a stern look and challenged the audience to like your music. Neither did Dizzy. About his clowning onstage, Dizzy said to me once, 'If I can make people laugh, and if that makes them receptive to my music, I'm gonna do it.' That doesn't mean one isn't serious about the music itself."


"Not at all!" Clark said. "Who was more serious about playing than Dizzy was?


Nobody!"


"When did you begin to think of jazz as art, rather than merely entertainment?"


"Well," Clark said, "I think from the very beginning. I wasn't aware of how much it was attuned to art until later years. But from the very beginning I knew that it was an entertaining thing, and you had to get involved if you were going to have a certain amount of success. My older sister's husband, Cy McField, played tuba in that Dewey Jackson band, as I mentioned. He used to do a little bit about a preacher. I was just a kid, and used to enjoy the music, and I found it very entertaining. Made you want to move, you know, and it made you laugh. People like to hear things that make them forget about their worries. People had a lot of worries in those days. It was the Depression. So jazz was in a sense born out of that, too. People wanted to forget about their inhibitions, and their problems, and where the next meal was coming from. They wanted to sing and dance and play instruments. In New Orleans, the pawn shops were loaded with ostracized instruments. These cats got hold of them, and played them by hook or crook. We always show this in clinics. How they played here, or over there or over there."


With a mouthpiece he demonstrated aberrant and off-center embouchures, something one saw not infrequently in the old days among older players. "They were never taught properly. They just grabbed the instrument and played it however they thought they should. Maybe they saw somebody else do that. Most of them had very bad tone. But a lot of things came out of that. They had bad habits. But somebody had the ingenuity to figure out how to make his sound more acceptable to those who were considered legitimate players. This cat figured out how to hum and play at the same time."


Clark demonstrated the burry sound that this produces. "All those cats, all the way up to Vic Dickenson, knew how to play and hum. It was known as a buzz. It made the sound seem bigger. This was, in a sense, a by-product of ignorance. And people would say, 'You don't want to listen to this cat. He sounds puny. He sounds like a monkey pissing on a shovel.'


"Things in the Italian vocabulary for music, we can't use a lot of them. You wouldn't get on the bandstand and say, 'Let's play some largo blues.' You'd sound like an educated fool. You want to say funky, greazy, slimey, ass-kicking, or whatever. The jazz cats figured out ways to communicate without knowing all that vocabulary. There was no way for them to get to that. There were no schools they could go to."


He imitated the kind of big, pushed sound that Ben Webster, among others, obtained. "There was no vocabulary for it," Clark said. "It's from the abdomen. We called it 'body huffs.' Hoo! Hoo! Hah! Hoo, hah, ho! The reason Duke Ellington's band sounded so different was because the guys would use things like body huffs."

He sang, remarkably reproducing the feeling of the Ellington sax section, an eighth-note pickup, the quarter notes anticipated by an eighth: Huh-hoo, hoh, hoh! "Any section," he said, "that tries to phrase like that, if they don't know how to do the body huffs, it ain't comin' through." He sang it again, without that pushed body sound, reproducing an effect in which the time was academically the same, but the feeling wasn't there.

"It's from the abdomen," Clark repeated. "Like, for instance, when Prez played ..." He sang in a completely different manner, the phrases light and airy. "We called it the lull sound, lu, lu lu-lah" Then he made another sound, Thuh, thuh, thuh. "You produced the sound from between the teeth. You stop it with the tongue and the air continues around it." He sang some more, beginning the notes with the unvoiced th sound and ending it with the longer, voiced, buzzy th. "This is the kind of thing you ain't gonna find in no Italian dictionary. Ain't gonna find it in no classical players, and if they know, they're not gonna condone it because they didn't figure it out.


"We had an occasion with Duke to play with the Buffalo Philharmonic. At the end of the piece, I'll never forget the phrasing." He sang it. "That was the figure he wrote. They passed it out to the strings." And he sang the fixed classical phrasing of the same passage. "So Duke said, 'Let's take a break.' And he rewrote it in triplets. They came back and they played it. It came off. Tom Whaley, who did the copy work — he was with the band for years and years and years, and he died in complete obscurity two or three years ago — and Strays were there, and they got it. It took about an hour. But Duke made it swing."


"Now, getting back to your garden hose and your bugle ....


"I heard other notes," Clark said. "I was able to get those open tones on the bugle." He sang the race track bugle call.


"Were you able to get those in-between tones on that gardenhose?"
"Not really. But it was a device that satisfied my yen for a trumpet, which I couldn't afford. I didn't have to use it too long because luckily the neighbors got tired of hearing me make sounds on that hose and — you won't believe this, Gene — they chipped in and bought me an old C.G. Conn trumpet from the pawnshop for twelve dollars and fifty cents."


"That's a sweet, dear thing, to give such encouragement and an instrument to a kid."


"Yeah it is," Clark said, "and I don't forget it. I've bought tons of instruments and given them to kids. I got a lot of kids started. The head of Boys' High in Brooklyn, I gave him his first saxophone, bought it from a pawnshop, old raggedy baritone. That was his instrument, and he learned how to manipulate it. And he's head of the jazz department. That's where Aaron Copland, Max Roach, Randy Weston, all these cats went to school. Yeah."


"How old were when you got that real trumpet?"


"I'd say roughly fifteen years old. I was at Vashon High School in St. Louis. Our director was Mr. Clarence Haydn Wilson. He was head of the music department. He issued the instruments for band. I wanted a trumpet, but there were no trumpets available. There was a valve trombone. He said, Take this, it's the same fingering. You can make more noise with it than you can with a trumpet."


"Was it in concert?" I said.


"I don't know. Wait, come to think of it, I think it was in B-flat. Same as trumpet. So, when I finally got hold of a trumpet the next semester, Mr. Wilson assigned me to a guy name Leonard Smalls to teach me the scales. Up till then I was just making noise on it. Old timey stuff." He sang a couple of riffs of the period. "We'd sometimes play on the streetcar, on our way to or from school. When the people from the neighborhood bought me this Conn, I didn't know from nothing, and Mr. Smalls taught me the fingering. I think by then I had lucked up on the right embouchure. From watching people, and asking questions."


"Did you also start boxing during that period?"


"Yeah. I learned it in St. Louis," Clark said. "Archie Moore and I were friends. Archie used to go with my sister, and we were pretty good buddies. He said in his book that I could have become a champion boxer if I'd wanted to. I was pretty good. I learned it in Carondolet. There was a guy named Kid Carter, he used to teach all us kids. He'd walk up and hit you in the belly, and say, 'You gotta learn how to take it, boy.' He gathered us up and taught us the art of self-defense. He taught us how to punch and how to shift and recoil and all that. We got some pretty good little boxers out of there."


"Miles boxed too," I said.


"Yeah, but Miles learned to box after he got to New York. He was a fan. I started early."


"Miles talked in his book about coming to hear you and play for you."


Specifically, Miles describes his studies with Elwood Buchanan, who taught at Lincoln High School, where Miles played in the school band. In Miles: The Autobiography, he avers that Buchanan was the greatest influence in his life other than his father.


He writes: "One of the most important things that happened for me in high school — besides studying under Mr. Buchanan — was when I met Clark Terry .... He became my idol on the instrument .... He was older than me." Miles was born May 25, 1926, and thus Clark was just under six years his senior. He continued: "Anyway, we went down there to Carbondale to play and I saw this dude and walked right up to him and asked him if he was a trumpet player. He turned and asked me how I knew he was a trumpet player. I told him I could tell by his embouchure. I had on my school band uniform and Clark had on this hip coat and this bad, beautiful scarf around his neck. He was wearing hip butcher boy shoes and a bad hat cocked ace-deuce. I told him I could also tell he was a trumpet player by the hip shit he was wearing.


"He kind of smiled at me and said something that I have forgotten. Then, when I asked him some things about playing trumpet, he sort of shined me on by telling me that he didn't want to 'talk about no trumpet with all them pretty girls bouncing around out there.' Clark was really into the girls at that time, and I wasn't. So what he said to me really hurt me .... But I never forgot that first time me and Clark met, how he was. I decided then I was going to be that hip, even hipper, when I got my shit together."


Clark's memory of their first encounter is at variance with that, although it's conceivable that both stories are true. Clark said:


"His teacher, Elwood Buchanan, was a good buddy of mine. We used to hang out in the beer joints and drink beer together. He said," and Clark went into almost a Louis Armstrong growl, "'Man, you gotta come over to school and hear this Miles Dewey Davis, this little Miles Dewey Davis is bad' Miles was from East St. Louis. So I went over one day to hear this little cat. He was very, very thin, a timid little cat, man. He couldn't look you in the eye. He'd hold his head down. He was so skinny that if he'd turned sideways, they'd have marked his ass 'absent'. And he played. And he played his ass off even then. Just a little kid.


"Buch — " his friend, Buchanan; Clark pronounced it Buke, as in the second syllable of rebuke — "had a long ruler with some tape on one end of it. He said, 'He's got only one problem. Every time he shakes them notes, I have to hit him with the ruler.' Miles liked to play like Harry James. He loved Harry James. Buch said to Miles, 'Stop shaking those damn notes. You'll shake enough when you get old. Play it straight.'


"Buchanan's old teacher was Joe Gustaff, who was head of the trumpet section in the St. Louis Symphony and a very domineering type. He insisted on all his students using Heim mouthpieces. They were wafer thin with deep cups. Miles got hold of one of them. He loved it. I could never play it, because I think my chops are too thick. Miles had thinner chops. He had a knack for making that thing sound. Even in later years, he'd say to me, 'Hey, man, can you find me a Heim mouthpiece?' I found four or five Heims for him.

"Now I always figured that the fact that Buch made him play without vibrato, plus the use of Heim mouthpieces, helped him develop that pure sound. Nobody sounds like Miles. This kid Wallace Roney does about as good as you can hope for. And Miles liked Harry James' sound.


"I loved Harry James too. Harry was a bitch. And Harry was so real. I had a picture of him and me and and his wife Betty Grable and Duke sitting in a club. Somebody copped that picture. When he won the Down Beat poll, Harry said, 'No, this should be for Louis Armstrong,' and he gave it to Louis."


"I'm sure you know that line of Dizzy's about Louis Armstrong: no him, no me."


"That's right. No him, no us. Harry came out of Louis Armstrong too. Roy, Dizzy, all of us. Harry was a phenomenal cat, man. In his latter years, when the band was just playing weekends, he'd put the horn up and come back the next week and pick it up and . . . . " Clark sang the opening phrase of Ciribiribin. He had some chops. He was from that carnival scene. You'd have to blow from sunup to sundown, and take a break, come back and bally four or five times, then do a show, and bally some more and do a show ..."
"Bally?"


"Yeah. That's what the barker did. Step right up, ladies and gentleman, there's a show going on . . . . Lure the people in."


"Does it come from 'ballyhoo?'"


"I guess so."


"You came from that carnival scene too."


"Yeah," Clark said. "I was with the Reubin and Cherry carnival."


"And you got into the Duval Building in Jacksonville."


"I had gone to a small carnival, called a gilly show. I don't know where the word comes from. It was a truck show. They carried everything they owned on trucks, whereas Reubin and Cherry was a railroad show. They carried everything by train. We had berths on the train. But we were on this little gilly show, and we went to winter quarters, which was the end of the season. We were in Jacksonville, Florida. We'd just come from Pennsylvania.


"We went to a five and ten cent store to buy some tee-shirts, which were five and ten cents a piece in those days. I was hanging with a bass player named William Oval Austin, we called him Fats Austin. We'd come from cold weather right into Florida, and we had nothing to put on. We had no money anyhow. So we went to the five and ten cent store. It was a Saturday, and it was crowded. Now Fats was a big, fat cat, man. Naturally, going through a crowd, he gotta touch people. He slightly brushed against an old woman with a cane, and she screamed, 'Aaaaaah, git that nigger, he tried to knock me down! Catch that nigger!' I looked around and said, 'Hey, Fats, there ain't nobody in the store but us. Let's get the hell out of here.' You could hear, 'Nigger, nigger,' all through the store.


"We ran. Now I was just out of high school, and I had the record for the low hurdles and the 220 and 100 yard, and I looked around, and Fats was right on my ass." He laughed. "Behind, a mob was gathering as we ran, and they were throwing bricks and rocks and things.


"We managed to run up into this area where they were putting up a round building. And it was Saturday and they weren't working. So we were running around." He drummed his fingers on a coffee table, like running feet. "And they were after us." More running feet. "We got almost back around and we jumped into an area of excavation. I pulled Fats down and we hid, and we heard them." More drumming.

"Luckily, they had no dogs.


"We stayed there until dark, and we sneaked out, and got back to safety."


"And then there was the incident in Mississippi you told me about."


"The carnival stopped in Meridian, Mississippi," Clark said. "It was the end of the tour. Marvin Wright was the drummer. He ended up being a high school principal in East St. Louis. He was a good drummer. On Saturday, you had to pack up your drums, because Sunday you travelled.


"Marvin was packing up his drums and I was waiting for him on the midway, right outside the tent, and I was with his girlfriend. Now she was a very fair lady. A child of miscegenation. The Mills Blue Rhythm Band was playing a dance that night. Lucky Millinder. We were going over to this dance. All of a sudden here comes a little ... a little ... a little motherfucker. 'Whatchyall doin' hangin' around thish heah midway, boy?'" Clark mimicked the man with chilling verisimilitude.


"I’m waiting for my buddy to pack his drums, and we'll be off


"You with thish heah show?'


"'Yeah.'


"He said, 'What? Do you realize you just said 'Yes' to a white man?'


"I said, 'What am I supposed to say, No? I am with the show.'


"He pulled out a blackjack, one of those leather things loaded with lead, and started beating me about the head."


If you have never seen a spring-loaded sap used by someone skilled with it — and I saw a police detective use one on a man in a Louisville restaurant — you have no idea how brutally efficient this implement is.


"It had been raining," Clark said, "and he left me face down in the water, to drown.
And he went away. And the train crew, which was all Caucasian, came out and picked me up and took me back to the show train. They put some towels on me. By this time he'd come back, with fifteen or twenty more guys with axes and hammers and chains, and he said, 'Where's that nigger I left here?'


"And the train crew which, I repeat, was all Caucasian, said to him, "Ah, he was a smart ass. We kicked the shit out of him and sent him out that way.' Whereas in reality they'd taken me back to the train and were taking care of me.


"And from that time, I never generalize about race, creed, color, nationality, or anything else. Never."


"You see, Clark, that's a point I've been making for years. Nobody white can ever know what it is to be in that kind of danger for no reason, and to be insulted constantly throughout your life — again, for no reason."


"Absolutely," Clark said. "And then there was that cat who wrote something about, I Was a Negro in the South for Thirty Days. Sheeeitl"


"You know, Clark, over the years of knowing you and Dizzy, you seem like miracles to me. I don't know how anyone who comes up through that experience can even speak to white people."


"Yeah, but that incident affected me. When I think of that Caucasian crew that saved my ass, I'd be stupid to generalize. I've never forgotten that."


"I don't know how anybody deals with it, day after day."


"It's a very difficult thing to do," Clark said. "Except you reach a point where you have a choice. You can lower yourself to that standard or you can elevate yourself in the hope that you can put an end to all that shit. You know, my first wife could not look a Caucasian in the face. She couldn't talk to one. Because when she was a little girl, they took this kid, a little boy, her cousin, out from her bedroom, he was staying over. They took him out on the porch and hanged him."


© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.


Clark Terry died on February 21st. He was ninety-four [94] years old [born: December 14, 1920].


The rationale for posting this second in a three-part feature about Clark remains as described below:


“In the past few years, I have been only too aware that primary sources of jazz history, and popular-music history, are being lost to us. The great masters, the men who were there, are slowly leaving us. I do not know who said, "Whenever anyone dies, a library burns." But it is true: almost anyone's experience is worth recording, even that of the most "ordinary" person. For the great unknown terrain of human history is not what the kings and famous men did — for much, though by no means all, of this was recorded, no matter how imperfectly — but how the "common" people lived.


When Leonard Feather first came to the United States from England in the late 1930s, he was able to know most of his musical heroes, including Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. By the end of the 1940s, Leonard knew everybody of significance in jazz from the founding figures to the young iconoclasts. And when I became actively involved in the jazz world in 1959, as editor of Down Beat, most of them were still there. I met most of them, and became friends with many, especially the young Turks more or less of my own age. I have lived to see them grow old (and sometimes not grow old), and die, their voices stilled forever. And so, in recent years, I have felt impelled to do what I can to get their memories down before they are lost, leading me to write what I think of as mini-biographies of these people. This has been the central task of the Jazzletter.


When I wanted to know something about one aspect or another of music history in the 1960s, I could pick up the telephone and call these older mentors, such as Alec Wilder or my special friend Johnny Mercer, or Robert Offergeld, music editor of Stereo Review when I wrote for it and one of the greatest scholars I have ever known. If I wanted to know something about the history or the technique of film composition, I could telephone my dear, dear friend Hugo Friedhofer, who wrote his first film music in 1929. There was nothing worth knowing about film music that Hugo didn't know; and not much for that matter about the history of all music. I can't call Hugo any more. Or Dizzy. I can't call Glenn Gould either. Gerry Mulligan was ten months older than I. Shorty Rogers died while I was researching the Woody Herman biogra­phy; I was to interview him in a week or two.


Now, when my generation is gone, there will be no one much left who knew Duke Ellington and Woody Herman and Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. All future writers will be depen­dent not on primary sources, which all of these people were for me, but on secondary sources, which is to say documents. And earlier writings. And I have found much of the earlier writing on jazz, such as that of John Hammond and Ralph J. Gleason, to be unreliable — sloppy in research, gullible in comprehension, and too often driven by personal and even political agendas. Errors — and lies — reproduce themselves in future writings.”


“Clark laughed. That anyone can laugh at so painful a memory is part of the mystery of this man. But then all comedy has roots in pain, and the old expression "laughing to keep from crying" is one of the most valid truisms of human experience. We need only reflect on the involuntary expulsion of air from the lungs involved in laughter and sobbing, and think how easily one turns into the other, as at funerals, to realize this. It is this alchemical conversion of pain into joy, I think, that lies at the heart of Clark Terry's great art.”
-Gene Lees, Jazz Letter, February, 1998


“For a time Clark worked in Illinois in a Danville group led by a man named Toby Dyer. Another local band was led by Jimmy Raschel. Its personnel included Booty Wood and Milt Buckner.


"Lionel Hampton wanted Milt to join his band," Clark said. "Milt was afraid to go, so we got him drunk and made him get on the train for Chicago to join Hamp. Hamp right away took him off vibes and put him on piano. He was a marvelous vibes player. So Hamp stymied his career on vibes, although Milt was a great rhythmic player on piano."


Clark hung out in a club in Peoria called the Grenada, owned by Sweets Edison's uncle, Bruce Collins. "They used to gamble in the back and there was a bar in the front. I'll never forget that Seagram's Five Crown whiskey was in those days five dollars a fifth. I was in Peoria on Pearl Harbor day in 1941. I went into the Navy in 1942."


After boot camp, Clark went on leave, visiting a cousin named William Scott who lived on Morningside Avenue in Harlem. Like so many other servicemen later known as major jazz musicians, Clark, on hitting town, headed for 52nd Street and its many jazz clubs. He encountered Stuff Smith and Jimmy Jones at one club, Ben Webster and Tony Scott at another. Clark stood at the bar in sailor's uniform, holding his trumpet case. Tony Scott said on the microphone, “Hey, there's a sailor over there with a trumpet. Come on up here, sailor. You want to play something?" Terrified, as he recounted later, Clark mounted the bandstand and played. Scott got him a job at the 845 Club in the Bronx. Then Clark went back to the navy and a position in one of the bands in training at Great Lakes Naval Station, a cradle of great jazz musicians. Clark and Tony Scott would remain friends.


"At Great Lakes," Clark said, "there was a whole bunch of people like Willie Smith, guys from the Jeter-Pillars Band in St. Louis, like Charles Pillars. Al Grey was there. And Lou Donaldson."


The bands were kept strictly segregated at Great Lakes.


"Our camp was called Camp Robert Smalls," Clark said. "It was in barracks 1812. They really had two branches of the navy in a sense, as far as we were concerned. All the black people were relegated to being over there. They wanted Willie Smith to come over on the main side, because he could pass. They even offered him a commission. He turned it down, said, I’m going to stay over here with my gang.' He was a beautiful cat."


"When I was growing up," I said, "he was my alto player."


"Oh, mine too, baby. He came into Duke's band when Johnny Hodges was out sick or something. Man, nobody remembered Hodges was in the band while Willie was there.


"So that was a great band we had at Great Lakes. We had a concert band, a marching, and three jazz bands, the A band, the B band, and the C band. We played engagements in Chicago for special affairs.


"When a new guy would come into the band, most of us were old guys - - maybe twenty-three years old! There were some eighteen, nineteen, even seventeen-year-olds coming in, and they wanted to play in the band. And we'd play a joke on them. We slept in hammocks in those days, and you had to lash the hammock a certain way. If you didn't do it right, there was no way in hell you could make that last hitch. We'd teach these kids the secret. We'd tell them, 'What you have to do is go over and get the rope stretcher. Go over to Camp Moffat and get it, room 305.' And the cat over there would tell them, 'Oh shoot, you just missed it,' and send them somewhere else. The kid would be looking for it all day, and he'd come back, and we'd say, 'Did you get the rope stretcher?' 'No, I couldn't catch up with it.' It took him a long time to figure out he'd been had.


"When the war ended, I went back to St. Louis. I started working with George Hudson's band. We became popular through the acts we played for at the Club Plantation. We'd take the music home and rehearse the parts. The acts would go back and say, 'Man, you've got to play St. Louis and get that George Hudson band to play your music!” You've never heard it played like that before!' As I'm sure many of them hadn't. We rehearsed it like we were going to be playing it forever.


"We went to New York and played the Apollo Theater on a bill with Illinois Jacquet. He had a marvelous band with Shadow Wilson and Sir Charles Thompson and his brother, Russell Jacquet, and Joe Newman and himself. They were real big. He hired our band as an opening act. We had a bad tenor player with us named Willie Parker. We called him Weasel, because he was a little cat. One of the top writers in St. Louis, Bugs Roberts, wrote a bad chart on Body and Soul.


"It went into double time on the end. We went on first, since Jacquet was the star. We opened, and we ended with that number. Weasel was featured on this one. Opening show in the Apollo, he had people standing up on the chairs after that thing. Jacquet came running back and said, 'Take that number out, get that goddamn thing out!' It was out for the rest of those shows."


"Sounds like Benny Goodman," I said. "Benny didn't dig it when other people got the applause."


"He sure didn't," Clark said, laughing.


"Duke and Woody Herman built their bands on their soloists."


"They sure did, and gave them beautiful arrangements."


I told Clark the story of the time when Stan Getz said to Woody Herman. "You can't play." And Woody said, "That's right, that's why I hired you."


"Sounds like Stan," Clark said. "I don't know anybody else who'd have the balls to say something like that to Woody. He was a sweetheart of a guy. I loved him."


"What came after the Apollo?"


"We did the T.O.B.A circuit," he said, and laughed. The letters stood for Theater Owners Booking Association, but the musicians who played it universally said it stood for Tough On Black Asses.


"It was a rough circuit," Clark said. "But it kept you employed. You knew you were good for four weeks. The Apollo, the Royal in Baltimore, the Earle in Philadelphia, the Howard in Washington. If you could squeeze in a few more weeks, you had six months.


"Then you'd go down south on a tour. The white audience would sit in one place while the blacks danced. Another night the black audience sat in one place while the whites danced. All the money they spent to segregate!


"After we got home, I played a couple of little stints with Ellington. I subbed for Francis Williams for one night in St. Louis. Duke put me in his phone book, saying, 'We'll have to have you come with us some time.' After that, I subbed again, this time for Al Killian. I stayed with the band maybe four, five days.


"Then I got a call from Charlie Barnet. I'd met Gerald Wilson. Gerald lived in Los Angeles. He said, 'If you ever come out here, stay at my house.' So Charlie made me an offer, and he asked me how I wanted to come out. I'd never gone cross country, so I said, 'I'd like to take a train ride.' Charlie sent me a train ticket, and I took the train and enjoyed the scenery. Gerald met me at Los Angeles Union Station and took me to his house, 5612 Ascot, on the west side.


'That night Gerald took me out to Hermosa Beach, where the Barnet band was playing. The band was on a coast to coast broadcast. We walked through the crowd. Charlie spotted Gerald. Gerald told him, 'Here's your new trumpet player.' Charlie announced, 'Our new trumpet player has just arrived. You'll be hearing from him in a very short time. Maybe the next tune.' He said, 'Get your horn out.' So he kicked off the tune. In the middle of a broadcast, coast to coast, I joined the band! Luckily, it was a tune I knew the changes to.


"He was crazy. I loved him. Charlie was always good to musicians. He took a special liking to me, for some reason. I was very close to him.


"Doc Severinsen was in the band. Doc is a marvelous trumpet player. He's always been. I became close to his mom and his dad. His father was a dentist in Portland, Oregon. Whenever we'd come to town, Doc's mother would make cookies for me. And his father would do our teeth, me and Doc. He'd say, 'You've got the hardest damn teeth!'


"Doc's mother still calls me her son. Every time I go out there, I call her up and say, 'Mom, are you going to come to the concert?' She said, 'Yes, I'd love to.' I said, “I’ll send a car for you.'


"She said, 'Well, no, I've got my own car.'


"I said, 'Mom, you can't drive.'


"She said, 'No, but Carl provides me with a chauffeur.'


"Carl?"


"Yeah. That's Doc's real name. He's a great musician, and a beautiful cat too."
Clark stayed with Barnet about a year. That edition of the Barnet band went east to play the Apollo Theater and Town Hall. In addition to Doc Severinsen and Clark, the trumpet section also contained Jimmy Nottingham. Bud Shank was playing tenor. When the lead alto player was unable to make one of the engagements, according to Clark, Bud asked Barnet if he could play that chair, and did. "That was Bud's turning point on alto," Clark said.


Clark's next plateau would be the Basie band. "They were holding auditions at the old Nola studio at 1619 Broadway, near the Paramount," Clark said. Musicians often make that distinction. Later, Tommy Nola, the owner, moved it to its present location at the top of the Steinway Building on 57th Street, near Carnegie Hall; it is one of the prominent recording studios.


"They were rehearsing," Clark said. "Sweets Edison, Dicky Wells, Earle Warren, Ted Donnelly, Jack Washington, Buddy Tate, and all that bunch. They had a knack for making it difficult for a new cat. Put the new boy through the steamer. Now when I came in they said, 'We'll fix his ass.' So they called South. Snooky had recorded it with the band a few years before that. We got to the out chorus, and I made that high A natural. I'd never made one before and I haven't made one since. But I got the gig.


"At that time, Emmett Berry, Sweets, and Ed Lewis were the trumpet section. Shortly after that, Jimmy Nottingham got out of the Navy. We got Jim in the band.


"There was another trick they used to put on everybody when you first joined the band. My seat on the bus was with Jimmy Rushing. And he took up all the seat. And they would laugh their asses off. I'd have to sit there riding with Rush. We got to be real buddies."


He joined Basie in 1948, when the big-band era was waning, and constricting financial pressures made it increasingly difficult for anyone to keep a large group on the road. And Basic had debts. "He sure loved the ponies," as Clark put it.



"After he broke up the band because of financial difficulties, he started a small group. He called me in St. Louis and told me to pick up somebody down there who'd work out in the small group. I told him there were two, the older, established cat named Jimmy Forrest, and a young Caucasian kid named Bob Graf. Right away he said, 'Get the kid.' He'd be cheaper. So I brought Bob to Chicago, downtown in the Loop, the Brass Rail. Jimmy Lewis on bass, Gus Johnson on drums, Freddy Green, Basie of course, and Buddy DeFranco, me, and Bob Graf. Carlos Gastel came in every night to hear us. He was scouting Bob Graf for Woody. After that we got Wardell Gray.


"Freddy Green was the foundation. He was the greatest rhythm guitarist that ever lived. Freddy used to say, 'You have to turn the amp down so you can feel it more than you can hear it.' We used to call him Ching Chang. The second note was always a little more dominant. Just a little. That was the secret.


"Basie, as a leader, was one of the most beautiful people in the whole world. He was very candid and very down to earth. He'd tell you in a minute, 'Kiss my ass,' anything he felt like saying. But he was loving. We used to call him Holy. Some called him Bill, some called him Count, some called him Basie, but some of us called him Holy. In the Basie band, we had some weird names. Prez started all that. 'Holy' had a connotation of something that was special to you. Your wife was holy, your horn was holy. And Basie was the head man, so he was Holy. I can't think of anyone who could ever leave that band and say anything against Basie. He would listen to the band, he would hang out with the band. We'd be somewhere shooting dice or drinking booze, and he'd be right there with us.


"The small group was going to Boston. When 1 got to the airport, I got scared again. I've always been afraid of flying. I do it all the time and I'm still afraid of it. I got to the airport, and I said, 'I'm not getting on this plane.' Basie said, 'You've got to get on the plane. We've got to be in Boston. Come on with me.' We went over to the liquor store in the airport. He got a half a pint of gin. He said, 'Come on, drink some of this.' We started taking slugs. He started talking about other things completely. Ham and cabbage was his favorite dish. He'd kill for ham and cabbage. I was telling him how my wife could cook ham and cabbage. And we passed the bottle back and forth, and he said, 'Come on, let's get on this plane before we miss it.' And I got on the plane!"


Clark was with Basie from 1948 until 1951. Then began one of the most important associations of his life: that with Duke Ellington.


"How did that come about?" I asked. "Leaving Basie, a much-loved man, must have been a wrenching experience.”


"We were working at the Capitol Lounge in Chicago," Clark said. "Duke called me on the phone and said, Td like to talk to you. We'd like to have you come aboard.'
"So I said, 'Yeah, I'd like to talk to you too.’


"Duke said, I’ll come by your hotel.'


"I said, 'Fine. I'll meet you at the elevator.' I was at the Southway Hotel, at 60th and South Parkway.


"Duke called from the lobby. Just as the elevator comes up and he gets off and I'm meeting him, the door across from the elevator opens and Freddy Green comes out. Freddy looks and says, 'Ooooh, shit,' and goes back and slams the door.


"Duke and I talked and got our business straight. That night on the gig, I walked in, and Freddy Green was tuning up. Instead of saying, 'Hello,' he turned his eyes up and said, 'You're a fool if you don't'


"And they were friends, Ellington and Basie," I said.


"Sure," Clark said.
"That seems to have been the accepted thing. Apparently they all did it. Woody was always raiding the Charlie Barnet band, and yet they remained close. And Willie Smith went back and forth between Ellington and Harry James for years."


"Sure," Clark said. "Duke told me to tell Basie I was sick and go home to St. Louis. He said, I’ll put you on salary, and when you've gotten well, you might like to come out and get your chops together again.'


"Toward the end of my stay with Basie, I was making $125 a week. He gave me a $15 raise. When I told him I was leaving, he took the raise back.


"Years later, I was at Carnegie Hall. They had a little side elevator. It came up, and Basie got out, and I said, ‘Hey, Holy. I've got to talk to you about something that's been bugging me for years. Remember when I left you, I told you I was sick?'
"He said, 'Yeah.'


"I said, 'I wasn't sick, Holy. Duke had made me an offer. I lied to you.'


"He said, 'You think I didn't know that? Why the fuck do you think I took the raise back?'


"I felt like an idiot."


I said, "Have you ever heard the story of how Don Byas resigned from the Basie band?"


"Sam? We called him Sam. I don't think I have," Clark said.


"The story goes that he said to him, 'Basie, in one month I will have been gone two weeks."


Clark laughed and said, "If you don't believe I'm leavin', you can count the days I'm gone! It's an old blues. Anyway, that's the story of how I left Basie and went with Duke."


The great jazz arrangers and composers have built their music around the individual sounds of specific players — but no one more than Ellington, whose genius in part lay in knowing exactly how to use the idiosyncratic sounds of his men, as different from one another as musicians could possibly be: men such as Juan Tizol, Tricky Sam Nanton, and Lawrence Brown; Ben Webster and Paul Gonsalves; Ray Nance and Bubber Miley. Clark's inflection, articulation, phrasing, and infectious buoyancy make his one of the most identifiable sounds in all jazz, and Ellington used it to potent effect — and made Clark a major star. This affiliation with Ellington was to last from 1951 to 1959.


"Duke was unique," Clark said, "in that just being around him, you could garner more by osmosis than you ever realized until it was time for you to use it, when you needed it. I've been in many situations where I thought, 'What do I do here now?' and then, 'What would the maestro do?' and I'd push the button once and the answer would come. I learned an awful lot about establishing rapport between the bandstand and the audience. How to handle men psychologically, how to read audiences, how to program music. It's very important to someone in front of a band. You've got to know your audience, you've got to know what kind of music to choose. Just from being around Duke, these things would rub off on you.


"One of my favorite sayings, one I just love, came from Ellington. He said, 'I'm very easy to please. Just give me the best.'"


"Clark, did you ever read Mingus's book Beneath the Underdog.


"I read most of it, but it was so ridiculous."


"Yeah," I said, "but it's kind of marvelous in its way, regardless of whether it's accurate." In one passage of the book Mingus attacks Leonard Feather, Whitney Balliett, Barry Ulanov, John S. Wilson, Marshall Stearns, Bill Coss, and me, placing us at a party together. As Whitney has written, that group was never in the same room at the same time in our lives. But the passage is rather funny. And the opening paragraph of the book is a sharp definition of Mingus's own troubled personality. "In other words, I am three," he says. "One man stands forever in the middle, unconcerned, unmoved, watching, waiting to be allowed to express what he sees to the other two. The second man is like a frightened animal that attacks for fear of being attacked. Then there's the ever-loving gentle person who lets people into the uttermost sacred temple of his being and he'll take insults and be trusting and signing contracts without reading them and get talked down to working cheap or for nothing and when he realizes what's been done to him he feels like killing and destroying everything around him including himself for being so stupid. But he can't — he goes back inside himself."


Mingus's contradictions were complex. His book is an impressionistic diatribe, poetic in its way, in which he denounces whites and ruminates on his sexual past. Yet he didn't hesitate to hire white musicians; and one of his best friends was Paul Desmond, whom he visited when Paul was dying. Most musicians who knew him, in my experience, thought Mingus was crazy as hell, and a lot of them were afraid of him. Mingus verified what he said about himself in the book in a conversation we had. He told me he attacked "because I'm a coward and I'm afraid," and I not only liked him for that, I admired him for the candor. But that didn't help his victims. I told Clark that I knew one musician (I can't name him for obvious reasons) who told me that when he worked for Mingus, he carried a .32 automatic behind him in his belt, under his jacket. He was that afraid of the towering rages he might encounter.


"I don't blame him," Clark said.


And Mingus hurt some people. There is nothing as frightening to a brass or reed player as the possibility of injury to his teeth. And, Clark pointed out, "He knocked Jimmy Knepper down and broke his teeth. He knocked out Jackie Maclean's teeth."
I said, "And Oscar Peterson came close to laying Mingus out. But he gave Mingus a message. He said if he so much as raised his hand to him, 'Death! Nothing less, death!'"


"I came close to decking him," Clark said. "When he first came to New York, he passed out this music, Mingus Fingers and those things."


Mingus Fingers was a piece Mingus originally wrote for the Lionel Hampton band. They recorded it on Decca; it was Mingus's first recorded composition.


"The parts were all water-spattered and tattered," Clark said. "You couldn't tell whether a note was a G or an A. I'm sitting there trying to play it, me and Britt Woodman and lot of people Britt got for him. We're sitting there rehearsing. It reached the point where I just couldn't make it any longer. I was very busy anyway. I put my horn up and I said, 'Mingus, I am not able to determine what some of these notes are, and I don't have much time. I'm going to have to cut out instead of wasting your time.'


"He stands there, breathing heavily, his nose expanding. Like I said, I used to box. And if you've boxed, you can see somebody telegraph what they're going to do. I laid my horn down. I was ready. And he stands there, breathing. Finally, his nose went down and he said, 'Okay, okay.'


"One time Mingus was on the bus with Duke. Tony Scott was in the band. Tony had always wanted to play Ben Webster's book. He was sitting in the bus, I'm behind him, and Mingus was back there. Mingus was talking to somebody sitting next to him. Tony, in front of me, was talking about sex. He said, 'My cock was so hard,' and so and so and so.


"And Mingus said, 'It ain't a cock, it's a dick, a prick! You motherfuckin' ofays always want to change that shit around.' And he jumped up and he grabbed Tony and he was choking him. I thought he was playing! And then I said, 'Wait a minute, this cat is serious!' And I had to take them apart."


In Beneath the Underdog, Mingus says that he left the Ellington band as the result of an altercation at the Apollo Theater with Juan Tizol, who, he says, attacked him with a bolo knife. Whether the passage is factually accurate or not — and Clark says it isn't — Mingus deftly captured the lofty, imperial, and wryly florid way in which Ellington could speak when he was of a mind to do so. The passage led me to believe that Mingus had the ear and basic abilities of a great writer, had he chosen to develop them; and if he actually invented this passage, it establishes his gift as even the greater. The passage reads as follows:


'"Now Charles,' (Duke) says, looking amused, putting Cartier links into the cuffs of his beautiful hand-made shirt, 'you could have forewarned me — you left me out of the act entirely! At least you could have let me cue in a few chords as you ran through that Nijinsky routine. I congratulate you on your performance, but why didn't you and Juan inform me about the adagio you planned so that we could score it? I must say I never saw a large man so agile — I never saw anybody make such tremendous leaps! The gambado over the piano carrying your bass was colossal. When you exited after that I thought, "That man's really afraid of Juan's knife and at the speed he's going he's probably home in bed by now." But no, back you came through the same door with your bass still intact. For a moment I was hopeful you'd decided to sit down and play but instead you slashed Juan's chair in two with a fire axe! Really, Charles, that's destructive. Everybody knows Juan has a knife but nobody ever took it seriously — he likes to pull it out and show it to people, you understand. So I'm afraid, Charles - I've never fired anybody - you'll have to quit my band. I don't need any new problems. Juan's an old problem, I can cope with that, but you seem to have a whole bag of new tricks. I must ask you to be kind enough to give your notice, Mingus.'


"The charming way he says it, it's like paying you a compliment. Feeling honored, you shake hands and resign."


"But it wasn't like that," Clark said. "I was there. Juan Tizol had written some music. There was no one in the dressing room but me, Mingus, and Juanito — Juan. Mingus had his bass. Juanito said," and Clark imitated his Puerto Rican accent, "'Play this for me. I want to show it to Duke and I want to be sure the notes are right.' Mingus played an A flat at one point, and Juanito says ‘That's an A natural.' So he played it again and he played the A-flat, and Juanito says, 'I wrote it!' and Mingus said, ‘I don't give a shit what you did, I'm playing what's down here!'


"One thing led to another. In those days the walls in theaters had fire axes. Mingus grabbed the fire axe. And Juanito came Bing! with his switch-blade. And it came out this long! Now I'm right between a fire axe and a switch-blade, and I took them apart.


"When Duke found out about Tizol and Mingus, he yelled to Al Sully, the manager,
'Hey, Sully, pay him off. Call Oscar.' Oscar Pettiford. Oscar got there in record time. He came in laughing. And of course walked in and played his ass off."


"I was told Pettiford knocked Mingus down once."


"Yeah, sure! He cold-cocked him in 'Birdland one night."


Clark left the Ellington band in 1959. He quickly became a major jazz star on his own, and one of the regulars of the New York studio scene.


It is hard for younger musicians, not to mention listeners, to realize what the music world of New York was like in those days just before the the culturally destructive storm of British rock-and-roll hit American shores. The big-band era was ended, but any number of jazz musicians whose reputations had been established by the bands were able to work in the countless jazz clubs of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, and to a large but lesser extent other cities. There was a circuit to which such musicians as Clark Terry, Miles Davis, Zoot Sims, John Coltrane, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, and others were able to travel for work. And in New York and Los Angeles — and, again to a lesser extent, Chicago — they were able as well to work in the thriving recording industry. Singers of high quality, such as Ethel Ennis, Tommy Leonetti, and Marilyn Maye, not to mention highly successful major stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Nat Cole, Vic Damone, Matt Monroe, and more, were recording with large orchestras, frequently including substantial string sections. You would walk into one of their record sessions and find all sorts of major jazz musicians doing section or solo work, such as Phil Woods, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Frank Rosolino, Cappy Lewis, Bud Shank, Herb Ellis and, since the racial barriers were breaking down, Sweets Edison, Joe Wilder, Paul Quinichette, Snooky Young, Ray Brown — and Clark Terry.


Snooky and Clark were among the first to break through the network-television racial barrier, joining the Johnny Carson Tonight Show band under the leadership of Clark's old friend from the Barnet days, Doc Severinsen. All this was in addition to Clark's own recording as a leader.


But the daily grind of racial abrasion did not cease. He was looking for a house, and found one in Bayside, Long Island.


"It was listed, I went by to see it," Clark said. "I wanted to be as close to NBC as I could. And the cat said, 'You just missed it. We just got a binder on it.'"
A section mate of Clark's in the Tonight Show band was Jimmy Maxwell, a veteran of the Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman bands and one of the great lead trumpet players. Big, strong, bearded, Maxwell — a native of Stockton, California, and a friend since adolescence of Gil Evans — casts a large shadow. He is an imposing man; if I were seeking someone to play him in a movie, it would be James Robertson Justice.


"Maxwell and I are real tight friends," Clark said. "I told Maxwell about the house, and he said, 'Let's just check it out.' Maxwell called up and said, ‘I’d like to come by and see this house.' So we went by. I sat in the car down the street. Maxwell said, 'When I give you the signal, you come on in.' He asked the cat if the house was for sale, and he said, 'Oh yes.' Maxwell said, 'Is there any tie-up, are there any binders in or anything?'


"'Oh no.'


"Maxwell said, 'If I put some money down, I can have it?'


'"If you want it, you got it.'


"Maxwell whistled, and I came in, and Maxwell said, 'You son of a bitch, you'll sell this house to this man or you're in trouble.'


"And that's how I got the house."


Clark laughed. That anyone can laugh at so painful a memory is part of the mystery of this man. But then all comedy has roots in pain, and the old expression "laughing to keep from crying" is one of the most valid truisms of human experience. We need only reflect on the involuntary expulsion of air from the lungs involved in laughter and sobbing, and think how easily one turns into the other, as at funerals, to realize this. It is this alchemical conversion of pain into joy, I think, that lies at the heart of Clark's great art.”


© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.



Clark Terry died on February 21st. He was ninety-four [94] years old [born: December 14, 1920].


The rationale for posting this conclusion to our three-part feature on Clark Terry remains as described below:


“In the past few years, I have been only too aware that primary sources of jazz history, and popular-music history, are being lost to us. The great masters, the men who were there, are slowly leaving us. I do not know who said, "Whenever anyone dies, a library burns." But it is true: almost anyone's experience is worth recording, even that of the most "ordinary" person. For the great unknown terrain of human history is not what the kings and famous men did — for much, though by no means all, of this was recorded, no matter how imperfectly — but how the "common" people lived.


When Leonard Feather first came to the United States from England in the late 1930s, he was able to know most of his musical heroes, including Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. By the end of the 1940s, Leonard knew everybody of significance in jazz from the founding figures to the young iconoclasts. And when I became actively involved in the jazz world in 1959, as editor of Down Beat, most of them were still there. I met most of them, and became friends with many, especially the young Turks more or less of my own age. I have lived to see them grow old (and sometimes not grow old), and die, their voices stilled forever. And so, in recent years, I have felt impelled to do what I can to get their memories down before they are lost, leading me to write what I think of as mini-biographies of these people. This has been the central task of the Jazzletter.


When I wanted to know something about one aspect or another of music history in the 1960s, I could pick up the telephone and call these older mentors, such as Alec Wilder or my special friend Johnny Mercer, or Robert Offergeld, music editor of Stereo Review when I wrote for it and one of the greatest scholars I have ever known. If I wanted to know something about the history or the technique of film composition, I could telephone my dear, dear friend Hugo Friedhofer, who wrote his first film music in 1929. There was nothing worth knowing about film music that Hugo didn't know; and not much for that matter about the history of all music. I can't call Hugo any more. Or Dizzy. I can't call Glenn Gould either. Gerry Mulligan was ten months older than I. Shorty Rogers died while I was researching the Woody Herman biogra­phy; I was to interview him in a week or two.


Now, when my generation is gone, there will be no one much left who knew Duke Ellington and Woody Herman and Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. All future writers will be depen­dent not on primary sources, which all of these people were for me, but on secondary sources, which is to say documents. And earlier writings. And I have found much of the earlier writing on jazz, such as that of John Hammond and Ralph J. Gleason, to be unreliable — sloppy in research, gullible in comprehension, and too often driven by personal and even political agendas. Errors — and lies — reproduce themselves in future writings.”
- Gene Lees


"We'd have the kids listen to the rhythm section and explain to them what the blues are, explain the chords, get the feeling of the blues instilled in them. Then just take any one of those notes, one at a time, use it. Create any kind of rhythmic pattern using that one note, start with the tonic. Taking advantage of space and time, which is the lesson that Basie taught everybody: the utilization of space and time.”


"Then put the two notes together, the tonic and the minor third. Then the tonic and minor third and flat five. This is the system that we got so many people involved in. Later the kids would find out that these are the notes of the blues scale. They had a tendency to be able to really hear these things, hear the simplicity of it. And there's something Ellington taught all of us: Simplicity is the most complex form.”...


"Everybody has to be taught, somewhere along the way. In the beginning they all say, 'Where do we start?' And you say, 'Listen.' That was the only disciplinary word Ellington ever used. He'd say, 'Listen!' All he wanted us to do was pay attention. He later explained that this is complex. If you're playing in a section, you have to listen to what your lead player is playing, listen to the dynamics that he's using, listen to what the other sections are playing that contribute to the overall performance, all these things. Teach 'em how to listen. If they can listen, they can learn."
- Clark Terry, Jazz trumpeter, bandleader


Jazz Letter
March, 1998
Gene Lees, editor


“In 1961, Clark Terry and Bob Brookmeyer formed a well-remembered and indeed rather celebrated group. It came about almost by accident, according to Brookmeyer, known as Brooks to his friends, as Clark is almost universally called C.T. It began at the Half Note.


The Half Note, at the cobblestoned corner of Spring and Hudson Streets in lower Manhattan, was an Italian restaurant and bar owned by the Canterino family. Sonny and Mike tended the bar, their father cooked, and Mike's wife Judy ran the coat room. An unforgettable fixture of the place was Al the Waiter, a wiry little man in a worn black suit, white serving towel over his arm, two books of paper matches in his belt. You could not pull out a cigarette without his appearing as if by magic at your side, a match already aflame, and with two books he could light two cigarettes at once, whipping out the matches, as Roger Kellaway put it, like six guns. And he always said, in reply to your Thank you, "My pleasure to serve you." The place is remembered — and with as much affection as Jim and Andy's — for its excellent Italian food and the Canterino family's hospitality to musicians and customers alike. The high bandstand was behind the bar, which was in the middle of the room.


"They were bringing in Tubby Hayes from England," Brookmeyer said recently. "They were worried about name recognition, so they asked Clark and me to come in with a group to help out. He and I went through some music, then got Hank Jones, Milton Hinton, and Osie Johnson. We went in for a week. It turned into four weeks, and that turned into four or five bookings a year. We went through every pianist in town until we got Roger Kellaway, and he became our main man. We got Roger from Chris Connor.


"Clark and I had worked for others all our lives, and now we had our own group. We made four albums, three for Bob Shad at Mainstream and one for Creed Taylor. It was a happy band."


Brookmeyer is one of the most intellectual (although he might take issue with that term) of jazz musicians. Known as an arranger and composer of rare attributes, he has been perhaps even better known as a valve trombonist, but he began his career as a dance-band pianist in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was born December 19, 1929. He did not take up the valve trombone until 1952, when he was twenty-seven. He became so adept so quickly that the following year he replaced Chet Baker in the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, known as the pianoless group, a particular irony in that both Brookmeyer and Mulligan played piano. He was with that group in 1953 and '54. In 1959, Mulligan formed his thirteen-piece Concert Jazz Band, whose personnel included both Brookmeyer and Clark Terry. Mulligan soon found himself so preoccupied with the problems, business and otherwise, of running a band that he had little time to write for it, even though, as he told me ruefully, he had wanted a band in order to write for it. Thus the burden of writing fell on Brookmeyer. He wrote the arrangement on Django Reinhardt's Manoir de mes Reves, one of the most gorgeous charts in all jazz. Clark was one of the band's principal soloists.


Brookmeyer's playing could take on a casual, amiable, witty, almost country-boy air, but this was deceptive. Trained at the Kansas City Conservatory, he played in a highly compositional way. This, however, he attributed in one of our conversations not to the conservatory but to his late guitarist friend Jimmy Raney. (It was Jimmy who introduced me to Bob.) Jim Hall once similarly attested to Raney's influence. Roger Kellaway, another highly compositional improviser, in turn attributes this quality in his own work to Brookmeyer. Thus there is an unsung influence of Jimmy Raney, the first bebop guitarist, on other musicians.


These factors contribute to one's understanding of the Clark Terry-Bob Brookmeyer Quintet. "I was perhaps more experimental than Clark, but that was all right with him," Bob said.


"Dave Bailey brought me into that group," Roger Kellaway said. "The way that bandstand at the Half Note was set up, the piano faced the far wall. The other musicians were behind me. There was no visual contact. Night after night, hearing the straight-aheadness of Clark and the unpredictability of Bob, it seemed intriguing to put those two things together. Doing that, with my Dixieland background and my interest in Twentieth Century classical music, was a major factor in the evolution of my style. Bob and Clark were enormously influential on me, and the two and a half years I was with them were very important in my life."


In those days, Brookmeyer seemed — to me at least — to wrap his sensitivity in a dry and quiet irony, a kind of self-containment. Perhaps he has changed, as we all have, but I was softly surprised when he recently volunteered this statement about his relationship with Clark Terry:


"We really loved each other. We had an unusual rapport, both as musicians and as men, a rare empathy as players. We still do."


Bob lives now in New Hampshire.



While Clark and Bob had that group, Clark became heavily involved in music education — as Brookmeyer later would too. One early experience was to be bitterly disappointing, and apparently continues to haunt Clark. It was typical, however, that it did not deter him. This is what happened:


“In my home town, St. Louis," he said, "it was customary for the old farts to send the young musicians in wrong directions, to keep 'em from becoming a threat to their livelihood. If you asked them a question, they'd give you a wrong answer. Then they'd call each other up and gloat about it.


"I asked an old dude once how to improve my tone in the lower register. So he said, 'Son, you got a mirror at home?'


"'Yes sir,' I said. I didn't know. I wanted to learn.


"He said, 'Well son, you go home and sit in front of the mirror with the correct posture. Make sure you sit up straight so you have room in your diaphragm.' That part was correct information. He said, 'Look in the mirror and grit your teeth and wiggle your left ear. Not the right ear. The left ear.'


"I don't know how you'd do that anyhow. But I was naive enough to believe it, and tried so hard to do it that people would say, 'Have you seen that kid who can wiggle his ear?' But it was cruel, what he did."


I said, "Ray Brown told me that when he was coming up, he went to one of the older bass players and asked him a question, and the guy said, 'Kid, we figured it out. You figure it out.' And remember how in the old days trumpet players would put a handkerchief over the right hand so you couldn't see the finger-


"Yes! They did that! Yeah. And from that experience in St. Louis, I made up my mind that if I ever had an opportunity to impart knowledge to kids coming up, I'd bend over backwards to do it."


During the period with Brookmeyer. Clark wanted to try to get Harlem kids off the streets through music, not the passive listening to it, but the active making of it. It is interesting that his old friend Archie Moore was doing something similar through boxing.
Clark bought instruments for kids. "I got 'em in pawn shops, I got 'em anywhere I could. And we found a place to rehearse in a five-flight walkup. No heat. Cold water. Near 125th Street and Fifth Avenue. In summertime you'd burn up, in wintertime you'd freeze. Gene Ghee, I bought his first instrument, a baritone saxophone, and he's now head of the jazz program at Boys' High in Brooklyn, where Aaron Copland, Max Roach, Randy Weston went to school.


"We had a book by a cat named Fred Wayne, extremely talented. Could write his ass off, and fast, like Billy Byers. He'd give you an arrangement in two hours. Copied and everything. He kept us supplied with charts. We had sixty-some charts for the kids.


"We'd meet every week, and if I couldn't be there, I'd get somebody to direct the kids for me, Kenny Dorham, Ernie Wilkins, whoever was available.


"Don Stratton was a friend of mine. Good trumpet player. He went to school with Charlie Mariano, Nat Pierce, and those guys in Boston. I first met them all when I was with Basic, playing a place in Boston called the High Note. Don became dean of men at Manhattan College of Music, which was up in Harlem. He made it possible for us to have facilities at the school. Suddenly we had school rooms, we had blackboards, we had chalk, we had music paper, we had listening equipment.


"I had to be away for a long time. Don took over for me, teaching the kids. A Caucasian, and the kids were black. While I was gone, the kids started dropping off. Not showing up. When I got back, Don said, 'I think I know the reason.' So I called a meeting of the band. One little motherfucker had the nerve to say, 'Well, man, we don't want Whitey teaching us about our music.' Now here's a bunch of kids who would probably never, ever again set foot in a major establishment of learning. Never.


"I said, 'If that's the way you feel, I don't want anything to do with it.' And I walked out. I don't even know where that library of charts is any more.


"Shortly after that, the Jazzmobile was born. They took my idea of getting all these kids off the streets and supplying them with instruments, finding a place to rehearse. They got grants and they got salaries."


The Jazzmobile was started in 1964.


Having fought white racism all his life, Clark in essence found himself in a two-front war, and his experience with those kids was one of the battles he lost. Another confrontation occurred in the early 1970s, when he had a band that played at Club Baron in Harlem. Clark has recounted the incident to me a couple of times, but an especially interesting account occurs in a 1987 interview he did with Hank O'Neal of Chiaroscuro records:


"It was a big band, about seventeen pieces, and it just so happens it was about half and half, blacks and whites. One night three big black Mafia guys, black Muslims, came into the club and they cornered me, saying, 'What are you doing playing with all these whites in Harlem?'


"I know they mean business and I'm a little frightened, but I know I've gotta be stern, so I say, 'Harlem has always been responsible for great jazz, all kinds of jazz, and big-band jazz has been missing for a number of years. There's been no big band up here for years, right?'


"They looked at me and said, 'Yeah, we have no big bands around.'


"Then I said, 'Well I feel it's my duty to bring big bands back to Harlem. And in doing so I choose the best musicians I can find and I don't listen with my eyes.' I think they're getting the message, and then one of them says, 'Well we got a kid here, a little black kid, and he wants to play, and we want to hear him play.'


"I said, That's okay. I've spent half my life making it possible for young musicians to be heard, so we'll bring him up on the beginning of the set and turn him loose.'

"So we start the set, and I asked Lou Soloff, who had the jazz chair, 'Lou, would you mind staying off and let this kid sit in?' He didn't have a problem and Lou got off and the kid came up. I kicked off with a medium tempo tune, one of Chris Woods' tunes, a very simple tune, very easy to play on, nice changes. The kid started when I kicked it off one, two, three, four, and I said, 'Hey, man, you play the music and when you get down to letter D, that's when you come in.' We started again, one, two, three, four, and he started in again. I stopped the band again and said, 'Hey, baby, no, you misunderstood me. When we start, you play the music. When you get down to letter D, then your solo comes, and we're gonna even open it up so you can play long.'


"He said, 'I just want to express, I want to express!'


"I said, 'Well, you're going to get plenty of chances to express.' So we kicked it off again. And he comes in wrong again. I was fed up and said, 'Express your ass off my stage.' I didn't care what the cats with the three guns said. When we came off, I went straight up to them and said, 'Now you see what you've done? You stuck your necks out to represent this dude to do something that he's not qualified to do, he's not prepared, he didn't do his homework, he can't read music!'


"In a low grumbly voice, one of them said, 'The little son of a bitch didn't tell us that.'"


At one point the French government invited Clark and several other American musicians to do some clinics. One of them told the young musicians there was no hope for them anyway — they were white, they were French, they would never get the hang of jazz. Clark was furious, telling the man they had been paid to come and he had no right to discourage young people who had hardly begun.


When he finished that story, his face clouded over and he said, in an almost ominous tone, "They can fuck with me, I don't care, but nobody fucks with my kids!"


The cloud passed, the sunlight returned.


"One of the ways I got into jazz education on a broader scale was through Billy Taylor and his group," Clark said. "He was doing clinics. At the same time, Doc Severinsen, Jim Maxwell, and Ernie Royal and a bunch of us would go around to a few schools and do trumpet clinics. So I got my feet wet. And I really dug it.
"What it did for me was to make me realize that it was important to the kids that those of us who have been blessed with capabilities pass along this thing called jazz. You can't document it on paper alone. Much of it, you have to sit there and let them soak it up by osmosis. I've been pretty much ensconced in that scene for some time. Besides! It keeps you alert! The kids ask you a lot of questions. And you've got to have some answers!


"I have a good buddy at the University of Iowa named Cliff McMurray. We've been friends for years and years and years. He plays drums, and he has knowledge of all the instruments. I met him when he was a student at Doane College in Iowa. He went on to teach in Anthon, Iowa. He had an all-girl trumpet section. He taught them all how to use plungers! It was so beautiful. I said, 'This cat is really something special.' And he liked the way I would teach kids. I use a system that is simple. It has nothing to do with theory, harmony, composition. It's just simple — basic common sense.


"For instance, I'd take a tune. The blues was the main vehicle. If they played the one chord — the tonic, the minor third, the flatted fifth — they didn't know that it constituted half diminished. They didn't care what you called it. They called them the blue notes.


"We'd have the kids listen to the rhythm section and explain to them what the blues are, explain the chords, get the feeling of the blues instilled in them. Then just take any one of those notes, one at a time, use it. Create any kind of rhythmic pattern using that one note, start with the tonic. Taking advantage of space and time, which is the lesson that Basie taught everybody: the utilization of space and time.


"Then put the two notes together, the tonic and the minor third. Then the tonic and minor third and flat five. This is the system that we got so many people involved in. Later the kids would find out that these are the notes of the blues scale. They had a tendency to be able to really hear these things, hear the simplicity of it. And there's something Ellington taught all of us: Simplicity is the most complex form.


"It has to be difficult and complicated for some people to understand. 'Flat five, flat nine, baby.' But a simple one-three-five fucks 'em up.


"So we taught the kids how to do that.


"My friend McMurray thought we should start a band camp. We did, and it grew like mad. We ended up being able to hire people like Snooky Young, Louis Bellson, Ed Shaughnessy, Red Holloway, and some people from the University of New Hampshire. Kids would tell us that they garnered more from this one week of concentrated effort — rehearsal technique, improvisation, ways and means — than in a whole semester in a lot of other schools. A lot of kids went through there. The kid who won the first Thelonious Monk trumpet competition was one of them, Ryan Kysor. Ryan's one of our kids.


"The band camp grew to the point where it was invited to Westmar University in Le Mars. The Japanese bought into it and it became Teikyo-Westmar.


"Here's a school that had no athletic program, no football, no baseball, no basketball, no debate team, no public speaking. The jazz program was the only thing they had. We had quarters, in what at one time had been a dormitory, where the kids could practice all day — all night, if they wanted. It got to be very successful.


"Then the school got a president who said that if they got a subsidy of a million dollars, he wouldn't spend one nickel on the jazz program. He snatched the rug right out from under us. And now the whole school has gone down the drain. There is no more Westmar University. So right now we don't have a campus. We're hoping to find a place in the east.


"We had that camp for close to ten years. Marshall Royal was there for a couple of years. I was doing things also with Bob Lark at DePaul University. I've been to practically every major establishment of learning that there is, and a lot of the minor ones, too.


"I get along with kids. First of all, you've got to realize kids are people. Somebody loves them, somebody's paying for their education."


Bob Lark, director of the jazz program at DePaul, said, "He's one of the founding fathers of jazz education. He was one the first major jazz artists who regularly made himself available to students, not just college students, even public school kids, going into the schools.


"I came into contact with him professionally in 1987. I inherited the Clark Terry Great Plains Jazz Camp, in a sense, when I took my first college teaching job. It doesn't exist any more. For many years, it was held at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas. It featured Clark and a faculty big band, a la the old Kenton camps. Clark would direct the top student big band, from public school to college-age kids. Clark would periodically bring in some of his friends, like James Moody or Frank Wess. Students would be in improvisation classes in the morning, and in the afternoon every student would be in a combo, every student would be in a big band, and there would be master classes. Clark would be actively involved in all of these. He would meet with all the trumpet players in the afternoon and present a master class, and not just tell stories of his days with Ellington and Basie, although that was insightful. He would relay how he learned to play, who his mentors were and how his peers developed their solo skills.


"That camp went on through 1988. He made himself available to the kids, not only as a player but also by coaching them during the day, directing them on classic big-band charts like Shiny Stockings. He'd have a chance to play and talk with the kids and hear them play.


"He has a long history of doing this. He has directed camps in Iowa and Oklahoma as well. He's been visiting colleges and high schools extensively for more thirty years or more. I think if he even had nothing to say, and he has plenty to say, just the opportunity for students to get close and hear him and see him perform is valuable. He coached me backstage in some concerts in 1987. He still coaches kids in the importance of rhythm, not so much how many notes you're going to play but make sure everything has great rhythmic integrity, played in time. That's the big fault I hear with many college and public school kids.


"Clark doesn't have to do any of this. But he loves doing it. He's got something to bring."


Clark said,"We have big problems with a lot of people in jazz education because they can play their asses off but they can't teach. They get positions. Because they can play, people want them exposed to their kids. But they can't communicate.


"I remember an incident with a trombone player. The kids wanted some facts about depth of the cup of the mouthpiece and the rim and the depth of the backbore and so forth. He said, 'Well, I've got this horn and I ..." Clark imitated a fast rising and falling passage. "That doesn't help the kids.


"Now Tom Harrell's good at teaching. He has feeling for kids. He knows they belong to somebody. You can't just fart 'em off, like I heard one cat say to a kid, 'What the hell did you do with the money your mother gave you to learn how to play that damn thing?'


"That's jazz education? Then I heard one motherfucker say to five little girls in a trumpet section, eleven, twelve, thirteen years old, he said, 'Come on, haven't you got any balls back there?' And one little girl said, 'What's balls?' That's jazz education?

"Instead of explaining to them how to use the air column more, and use a
diaphragmatic approach. You have to have a way of explaining to the kids what you want of them. If you'll explain it to them, they'll try it, and most of them will do it. They'll break their buns trying to do what you teach them, if you know how to teach them. But if you embarrass them, they may quit right there.


"So it's a very very interesting thing, jazz education, and we're lucky that we do have some knowledgeable and very sympathetic people in it. We've got tens of thousands of professors in colleges who can teach the kids the square root of a B-flat chord. But we don't have a whole hell of a lot of sympathetic people who know what jazz is all about, who have participated in it for a number of years, who know all the ins and outs, and then can explain to the kids how to give vent to their feelings and get involved in this music.


"Everybody has to be taught, somewhere along the way. In the beginning they all say, 'Where do we start?' And you say, 'Listen.' That was the only disciplinary word Ellington ever used. He'd say, 'Listen!' All he wanted us to do was pay attention. He later explained that this is complex. If you're playing in a section, you have to listen to what your lead player is playing, listen to the dynamics that he's using, listen to what the other sections are playing that contribute to the overall performance, all these things. Teach 'em how to listen. If they can listen, they can learn."


The quotation, often given incorrectly, is from Matthew:
The prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house.


At one time I think this was true in Clark's life, for once there occurred one of those rare moments when he surrendered to life's assaults, melancholy before my eyes, saying, "I can go around the world and be respected, but in my own house, I'm nothing." I don't remember where that happened, but I can't forget it.


In Clark's third marriage, this is not the case. His wife, a sensitive and articulate woman younger than he, is Gwen Jones of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, daughter of a lawyer, Theodore X. Jones (the X. is for Xerxes, which tells you something about the family) and grand-daughter of another lawyer. She was herself a paralegal, and is using her computer skills to help Clark assemble his memoirs. Her admiration for him is almost palpable, and it is personal: she said she had no especial knowledge of music when she met him.


I noticed on the S.S. Norway that she and two or three of Clark's friends were very protective of him. Clark has endured a number of illnesses, and years of diabetes. I knew that he was having trouble with his eyes, but now, it was obvious, as I watched him surrounded by admirers, that the problem had grown worse. I slipped up behind him and whispered our obscene greeting and he laughed that contagious laugh and said, "Hey, baby!" And I said, my concern probably apparent in my voice, "Hey, how is your eyesight?"


He pulled me close and whispered right into my ear, "I can't see shit." And he laughed! How do you laugh at that?


Soon he performed with what is pretty much his standing group now, introducing the members with lavish praise, and it struck me that its personnel reflected not only his musical tastes but his great heart, open to the world's diversity: two African Americans, himself and bassist Marcus McLaurine; two Jews, the marvelous pianist Don Friedman with whom he has worked for many years, and alto saxophonist David Glasser; and one Mexican-American, the group's drummer, who happens also to be a woman.


Part way through the set, he introduced her. He said, "You may think that's a little boy sitting back there, but it isn't. Sylvia Cuenca, from California!" And she stood up, long-haired and pretty. She is a powerful drummer whose rapport with bassist McLaurine lends great propulsion to the group. Later I asked Clark how he had discovered her, and the story again is an example of the huge heart and lack of presupposition:


"Every time we play the Village Vanguard in New York," he said, "on our last set Sunday night we have an open house. People always want to sit in, all during the week. But Lorraine — " he referred to the widow of Max Gordon and thus now the Vanguard's owner " — didn't want that. So I asked her, 'Can we have one set, maybe the last set when we finish the week?' She agreed. So I started that policy. We'd invite anybody who wanted to, to come up, and this little girl had been sitting in the room all week long, listening to the band. That last set that night, she sat in, and she played her little butt off. So the first time we needed a drummer, we called her, and that's how she came with the band."


The first solo David Glasser played that night on the Norway was electrifying in its first few notes. Glasser is a ferocious player, assertive, wildly inventive, daring, and with stunning authority. So I asked Clark, "And where did you get him?"


Clark said that his previous saxophonist had let him down by taking a more lucrative job when the group had a line of engagements ahead of it. He sent David Glasser as a substitute. And, laughing as always at irony, Clark said, "That was his mistake!" At the end of Glasser's solos, Clark will say, "Dangerous David Glasser. Dangerous. Dangerous!" And David Glasser is exactly that. His father, incidentally, is Ira Glasser, head of the American Civil Liberties Union.


Clark sits on a stool now to play. Given his vision problems, he is secure there, but the laughter is unimpaired, and so is the superb, soaring playing. The audience went wild over the group. All week.

In the late part of that week last fall on the Norway, after many long conversations, I put some formal questions to Clark.


I have always objected to the definition of jazz as a "folk music." For one thing, the formal training that underlay the work of so many of its pioneers, including Don Redman, with two conservatory degrees, Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, James P. Johnson, and more, precludes it. And there is a political agenda behind that definition, which is essentially that art is propaganda.


This is a functionalist vision, as if art has to have some purpose other than itself to justify its existence. It may be used that way, of course, but this obviates achieving its highest level. I think Clark agrees with that, if not formally, for in his cabin — the window to the balcony open, the soft early-evening Caribbean air drifting around us — he said:


"Some of the kids have gone to the extreme of using this beautiful music for the wrong purposes, such as rebellion and hatred. I think it's all love and respect for the people who support it and the people who are involved in it and the perpetuation of the craft. A lot of the kids just got into that bag, for whatever reason; they feel like they're justified.


"They're making their statements through their instruments. They don't have an opportunity to say it any other way, so they do it that way. But that's not artistic. I made a statement years ago, and I got a little flak for it. I said, 'The piano keyboard is made of white keys and black keys. And a note don't give a fuck who plays it so long as he plays it well.'


"That's the bottom line. That's basic."


I told him of a conversation I'd had with Sweets Edison. Sweets said, "Jazz is no folk music. It's too hard to play."


"Sweets was right," Clark said. "Louis Armstrong was being interviewed on the Johnny Carson show. Johnny Carson said, 'Mr. Armstrong, do you play folk music?'" Clark did a very precise imitation of Armstrong's graveled voice: "Pops said, 'Sure I play folk music! All music is folk music. Folks play it, don't they? You don't see no trees playin' it.'


"That always reminds me of the stupid question people ask, 'Where is jazz going?' I always want to say, 'I saw him coming out of Jim and Andy's the other day, and he was going up to the union to pick up some checks.'
"I don't believe in categorizations. There's only two kinds of music, as Ellington said, there's good music and bad music. What do they mean by folk music, anyhow?"


Clark is famous for his "mumbles" singing. He'll start out singing a blues with words that make sense and then the syllables degenerate into incomprehensibility, although they always sound as if he's saying something outrageous. Conversely, using a rubber plunger on his trumpet, Clark will do a blues that sounds as if he's talking, and what he's saying is obscene, and it's very funny. Blues sacre et profane.


Singing is part of his act. Many trumpeters have made singing part of their work, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Cheatham, Roy Eldridge, Ray Nance, Red Allen among them. It long ago struck me that, given the sustained evening-long endurance required in jazz trumpet, singing provides a way to rest the chops. Dizzy, and more so toward the end of his life, would sing a couple of tunes, clown with the audience, and then go into that foot-forward stance of his, put the horn to his mouth, and burn the place down.


So I put the question to Clark. Is that the reason? To rest the chops?


"Absolutely," Clark said. "Pops said so." The press may have referred to Louis Armstrong as Satchmo but his friends always called him Pops. "Diz and I used to go by and visit with him. Constantly. At one time several of us lived in a small radius in Queens. Pops' house was on 107th, Diz was on 106th, I was on 110th, Charlie Shavers was on 110th. Helen Humes. 'Bama Warwick. We all lived in the same area. Diz and I would call each other and say, 'Let's go bug Pops.' So we'd meet on the corner, and go and ring the bell."


There's an image to conjure with: Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry at Louis Armstrong's door, ringing the bell.


Again the evocative imitation of Armstrong: '"Yeah, come on in, come on in, Daddys.'


"We'd say, 'We come on by to get our batteries charged.' Which he kinda liked.
He'd say, 'All right. Sit down there, I'll tell you all about the history of jazz.'


"One time I went to tell him that Quinnipiac College and Howard University wanted to give him honorary doctorates. They sent me, because 1 lived close by. I rang the bell. He said, 'Come on in.' I said, 'Pops, aside from getting my battery charged, I'm here on a special mission. Quinnipiac and Howard both want to give you honorary doctorates. And Quinnipiac wants to do their festival this year in your honor.'


"He says, 'Fuck 'em. Where were they forty years ago when I needed 'em?' But we talked a while, and he was always so nice and he'd put on that big smile, make you feel comfortable. He'd say, 'Yeah, Daddy, you know you're m'man. I got to tell you one thing, though, Daddy.' I said, 'What's that, Pops?' He said, 'You gotta sing more.'


"I said, 'Yeah?' He said, 'Y'see, people, all the people, like singin'. Besides, it's good for your chops.'


"He knew that years ago! It lets the blood come back. You know, you can blow your chops to hell if you're not careful. Ray Copeland did that, blew his chops out completely. He was on first call. They wanted all the high notes, and the hard lead parts - Ernie Royal and him. Ernie had the knack for that, him and Maynard Ferguson. These are phenomenal people, unusual people. That's the thing Ray and Ernie were called on to do, play high lead parts. The other times they would rest and play fourth and cool it until they came to another one of those show stoppers and they'd give them the ball again."


"Now," I said, "another point. As we were saying the other day, in the early days, these people were in the entertainment business. But somewhere along the way it began to be evident that jazz was evolving into an art form. When do they think that occurred? Do you think Louis Armstrong was aware of it as an art?"


"I'm sure he was," Clark said. "He must have been aware. He loved it so much that it became a natural part of him. He enjoyed it so much that people enjoyed the way he enjoyed playing. The entertaining thing to them was to see and hear him do consecutive high C's. They'd count them. A hundred and five high C's without stopping. Everybody was excited, and this became the pulse. It became an integral part of him, and he in turn inspired all the serious trumpet players from that point all the way down.


And they all sang. Yeah. Pops says to me, 'Daddy, you gotta sing.'"


May Clark Terry sing forever.”



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