Veteran jazz trumpeter CLARK TERRY died on Saturday 21st February. He was aged 94 and died from complications arising from his advanced diabetes. In a garlanded career he played with some of the greatest jazz musicians of the 20th century including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Quincy Jones.
Born in St Louis in 1920, Terry attended the Vashon High School and later became a bandsman in the United States Navy during World War II. He then achieved prominence as a sideman for two legends of swing/big band music ….Count Basie (between 1948-1951) and then Duke Ellington (from 1951-1959). Terry held the distinction of being one of few who played in both bands. During this period he also worked as a sideman with Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Stan Getz, Johnny Hodges, Gerald Wilson, Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn, Sonny Rollins, Bud Powell and Ray Charles. He also worked in the big band of leader-composer-arranger Quincy Jones, for whom he served as an early mentor (Terry had earlier mentored a young Miles Davis).
In the 60s Clark Terry recorded as a leader but was also still happy as a sideman and he added to his credits working with names like Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus, Johnny Griffin, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Yusef Lateef, Dizzy Gillespie, Oliver Nelson, Wes Montgomery, J.J. Johnson, the Modern Jazz Quartet and Cannonball Adderley. Also proficient on flugelhorn, Terry was best known to the general public as a long-time featured soloist in the house band of NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” In 1960 he became the first African-American staff musician with the network.
Without doubt Clark Terry was one of the most prolific and widely admired instrumentalists in jazz, Terry led or co-led more than 80 recording dates and played on more than 900 sessions by the time of his last session in 2004. In 2010 he was honoured with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Amongst his other achievements are playing for seven U.S. Presidents, and performing with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Dutch Metropole Orchestra, and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. Described by Dizzy Gillespie as the “greatest jazz trumpet player on earth“, Terry even recorded a novelty version of the Flintstones Theme that was popular on the Acid Jazz scene during the Eighties.
Clark Terry’s wife, Gwen posted the following tribute…. “Our beloved Clark Terry has joined the big band in heaven where he’ll be singing and playing with the angels. He left us peacefully, surrounded by his family, students and friends. Clark has known and played with so many amazing people in his life. He has found great joy in his friendships and his greatest passion was spending time with his students. We will miss him every minute of every day, but he will live on through the beautiful music and positivity that he gave to the world. Clark will live in our hearts forever.”