Clark Terry

The great trumpet innovator Clark Terry has lived long enough and stayed healthy enough–and still plays so damned well–that he’s easily slipped into the role of jazz’s “grand old man.” Seeing his name on the Jazz Showcase bill for another New Year’s Eve, you’d almost expect him to hit the stage carrying a scythe instead of his trumpet and flugelhorn. When he picks up both those horns, however–in order to trade solos with himself–his eternal youth burns through the years. (Remember, this is the guy who spent the 60s cracking up his Tonight Show band mates–not to mention Carson and the crew–with his exuberantly mumbled scat singing.) In the 1950s, when he joined the Duke Ellington band, he single-handedly modernized its trumpet section and helped revitalize the entire ensemble. Terry’s style straddled swing and bebop; in the 40s as a young trumpet star in his native Saint Louis, he served as model and mentor for the serious-minded young Miles Davis (who lived across the border in Alton, Illinois). Pushing 77, Terry lavishes care and craft on his sunny improvisations; they have a crisp complexity, but they always seem to be smiling. And with his affable onstage demeanor he makes a most genial New Year’s host. Terry will lead a quintet featuring his regular saxophonist David Glasser and a fittingly resolute rhythm section: pianist Willie Pickens, bassist Larry Gray, and drummer Charlie Braugham. But on New Year’s Eve the irrepressible and unsinkable Barrett Deems–at 82 one of the few active musicians who can call Clark Terry “kid”–will sit in for Braugham. Friday and Saturday, 9 and 11 PM, Sunday, 4 and 8 PM, Monday, 8 and 10 PM, and Tuesday, 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Clark Terry photo.