Clark Terry: legend of the horn

Clark Terry, Melbourne 1974

Clark Terry in Melbourne 1974
(photo from "Jazz Down Under", v. 1 no.4, March/April 1975)

CLARK Terry, legendary horn player, whose career spans more than seventy years, has recently released his autobiography – Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry; Edited by Gwen Terry, published by University of California Press. (see review by John MacBeath in The Australian)

Local jazz musicians and fans whose memories go back far enough will remember Terry’s visit to Melbourne as special guest at the 29th Australian Jazz Convention in 1974. (It was of course the same year that Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin on Christmas Eve).

Don Anderson, who was Secretary of the Convention Committee that year and now AJC archivist, wrote a vivid description of the visit and its impact in an article in the March/April 1975 issue of Jazz Down Under which is the source for a good deal of this post.

The Convention Committee had only decided in August’74 to invite Clark Terry to Melbourne for the Convention. Luckily for them, Terry was available due to the cancellation of a Christmas booking in Miami. Over the next 3 months plans were made for a big band of Australian allstars to be put together by Barry Veith (and to use the latest arrangements from the Creative Jazz Composers Company), plus a trio which was to consist of Tony Gould on piano, Ray Speakman on bass, and at the last minute, Ron Hayden on drums.

Terry had arrived in Melbourne on Christmas Eve and met his support trio for the first time just before going on stage at 3.30pm on Boxing Day. Not only had the trio not played together before, but Ron Hayden had only been recruited on the weekend before the Convention.

In an interview on Radio 3MBS in 2009, Tony Gould cited the experience of playing with Clark Terry as one of his greatest jazz moments. “I was in my early 20s and he in his 50s. When he put the trumpet to his mouth, I had never heard such exquisite control”.

Bill Haesler in “The Annual Bell Lecture 2002” demonstrated how well Terry understood the Convention ethos:

The hiring of fifty-four year old ex-Ellingtonian tmmpet player Clark Terry for the 1974 Convention at Dorset Gardens in Melboume caused a stir, to say the least. Once again we discovered a down-to-earth musician willing to take part in whatever was thrown at him. Including an after-hours limerick session and on one occasion (at Clark Terry’s request) a set with the Bill Haesler Washboard Band.

Ian Smith who was President of the Convention Committee that year took a couple of films of Clark Terry performing with the trio. If we can track down copies we’ll see if we can get them up on YouTube.

Geoff Orr of Lyric Records produced two CDs of Terry while in Australia: one with the big band, and the other with a trio comprising Tony Gould (piano), Murray Wall (bass) and Ted Vining (drums). The big band CD includes Terry’s trademark “song” Mumbles. Here’s a version of it performed by Terry on the Chicago-based TV series, The Legends of Jazz in April 2006.

Clark Terry was born in St Louis, Missouri on 14 December 1920.
His career in jazz spans more than seventy years. He is a world-class trumpeter, flugelhornist, educator, composer, writer, trumpet/flugelhorn designer, teacher and NEA Jazz Master. He has performed for eight U.S. Presidents, and was a Jazz Ambassador for State Department tours in the Middle East and Africa.
At age 91 and in failing health, Terry continues to mentor the next generation of jazz musicians with one of his last students, pianist Justin Kauflin.

And finally, here’s a recording of Terry’s impeccable flugelhorn playing of Stardust at a Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in London in 1967.

One response to “Clark Terry: legend of the horn

  1. Clark Terry is my very favourite player.
    I have a few postcards he wrote to me which I treasure – such a lovely man.
    If there’s a better Flugelhorn player, I’ve yet to hear it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *