Clark Terry - trumpet, flugelhorn; Barry Harris - piano; Ed Soph - drums; Victor Sproles - bass; Ernie Wilkins - tenor saxophone
A tasty flugelhornist, world-class trumpeter, respected educator, rambunctious scat singer, and entertaining old school ranconteur, Clark Terry has been delighting jazz fans since his days in the Count Basie Orchestra during the late '40s. A member of Duke Ellington's band through the '50s and a regular member of the Tonight Show Orchestra during the '60s, Terry has been known internationally for the past six decades as a keeper of the straight ahead flame. And at age 90, this revered NEA Jazz Master is still swinging.
Appearing at the Great American Music Hall with a quintet featuring Barry Harris on piano, Ed Soph on drums, Victor Sproles on bass, and fellow former Basie-ite Ernie Wilkins on tenor saxophone, Terry and his swinging crew tear it up on a set standards, bits of Ellingtonia, some well chosen originals, and a couple of vocal numbers showcasing the leader's inimitable scatting style. They open their GAMH set on an exhilarating note with the ebulliently swinging Clark original, "Globetrotter," the title track of a Terry album that would appear the following year. Clark's flowing flugelhorn solo here is a marvel and Wilkins contributes a bracing tenor solo over the insistent pulse created by Harris, Sproles, and Soph. Their relaxed rendition of Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone" is a classic example of group swing, featuring an urgent tenor solo from Wilkins and an expressive plunger solo from Terry. Harris and Sproles also contribute potent solos here. Terry returns to flugelhorn for a heartfelt reading of the poignant number so closely associated with Billie Holiday, "God Bless the Child." The energy level picks up a notch or two during an ebulliently swinging middle section that features solos from Terry and Harris, and the leader follows with a stirring cadenza to put an emotional exclamation point on this tender 1941 ballad co-written by Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr.
Next up is an inventive take on "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," the enduring Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg ballad sung by Judy Garland in the 1939 film classic, The Wizard of Oz. Terry's arrangement sails along briskly on top of a churning Afro-Cuban groove and some infectious son montuno comping by pianist Harris. The tight harmony lines between flugelhorn and tenor sax give way to individual solos by the two jazz statesmen. Harris also contributes a sparkling piano solo over the clave groove. "On the Trail" from Ferde Grofe's evocative tone poem "Grand Canyon Suite" (introduced in 1931 by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra) is given a swinging treatment by Terry and his crew. It ppens with a cool and facile flugelhorn solo and is followed in a succession of solos by Wilkins on tenor and Harris on piano. And Clark closes it out in intimate fashion in duet with bassist Sproles that has him switching deftly back and forth between flugelhorn and muted trumpet.
Terry warms up his vocal chops on "Big Leg Woman," a raunchy slow blues, which also has him digging deep on some earthy plunger work. The group's jazzed up version of "Canto D'Amore," a 1914 Italian love song, is coming directly from a bebop point of view and features some of Terry's most emphatic blowing of the set. Wilkins responds with some heat of his own on tenor while Harris dazzles on piano. Their rendition of Ellington's "Satin Doll," with Terry on muted trumpet, is like a welcome cool breeze, and Clark returns to vocal duties on the bluesy "Never" and the blazing bop romp "Mumbles," both showcasing his humorous, nonsensical lyrics and signature scatting. And they close their GAMH set on a mellow note with a midtempo swinging rendition of Eddie Heywood's popular "Canadian Sunset."
A native of East St. Louis, Clark was born on Dec. 14, 1920, and began his professional career in the early 1940s before joining a Navy band during World War II. After being discharged from the service, he returned to St. Louis, where hhe served as a mentor figure for a young aspiring trumpeter named Miles Davis. He furthered his reputation as a solid section player and inventive soloist playing in Charlie Barnet's big band during 1947. The following year he joined the Count Basie Orchestra for a three-year stint and in 1951 became a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra. During his eight-year tenure with Duke, Terry was a featured soloist on many Ellington compositions (most famously, "Perdido") and appeared on a string of important recordings with the band, including 1956's Ellington at Newport, 1957's Such Sweet Thunder and 1958's Black, Brown & Beige.
Following a brief stint with the Quincy Jones Orchestra from 1959-1960, he played on Ray Charles' landmark Genius + Soul = Jazz, then became a regular member of the Tonight Show Orchestra from 1951-1959. He recorded regularly in the 1960s (including sessions with the Oscar Peterson Trio, Charles Mingus, and a quintet he co-led with valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer). He played on several all-star sessions during the '70s for the Pablo label and remained active as a sideman and leader through the '80s, '90s, and into the new millennium. In 2004, Terry recorded George Gershwin's Porgy & Bess with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and in 2005 released Live at Marihan's, a recording with his Young Titans of Jazz. Illness subsequently caused him to significantly curtail his activities, though he was indeed in attendance to accept his Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award at a 2010 ceremony in Los Angeles. (Milkowski)