Saturday, August 15, 2009

StLJN Saturday Video Showcase:
Spotlight on Clark Terry

This week's videos feature the great trumpeter and flugelhorn player Clark Terry, a St. Louis native who (health permitting) will be coming home at the end of the month to headline "A Night of Jazz Greats" on Saturday, August 29 at Harris-Stowe State University.

The concert, which benefits the Wolff Jazz Institute at Harris-Stowe, will feature Terry along with an all-star band including trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, tenor saxophonist Houston Person, trumpeter Randy Sandke, drummer and vibes player Chuck Redd, pianist Rossano Sportiello, bassist and singer Nicki Parrott, and drummer Eddie Locke, as well as St. Louisans Jim Widner on bass and Denise Thimes on vocals.

Today's clips showcase Terry in three different musical contexts. First up is a duo performance of the Duke Ellington standard "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" with bassist Red Mitchell - especially appropriate since Terry spent much of the 1950s with the Ellington big band.

After leaving Ellington, Terry went on to become the first African-American staff musician at NBC, spending another decade as a member of the Tonight Show orchestra. The second clip features a return appearance on the show circa 1980, for which Terry, encouraged as always by the jazz-loving Johnny Carson, played a couple of uptempo spotlight numbers with the band.

Last but not least is a rendition of one of Terry's signature songs, "Mumbles," taken from his 2007 appearance on PBS' Legends of Jazz. Even if you've heard him do it many times, it's still almost impossible not to crack a smile at Terry's mush-mouthed scat singing.

Though the 88-year-old Terry has suffered some well-publicized health problems, spending time in the hospital last year for heart surgery and again early in 2009 for an infected finger, the latest reports have him on the mend. Here's hoping his health is good enough to enable him to make the trip to St. Louis. Long may he mumble!

UPDATE - 3:00 p.m., 8/21/09: Got an email from Don Wolff, who relayed the good news that Clark Terry is well, has been cleared to travel to St. Louis, and has confirmed that he'll be at Harris Stowe State University to perform on August 29.

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