Clark Terry

Clark Virgil Terry Jr.[1] (December 14, 1920 – February 21, 2015) was an American swing and bebop trumpeter, a pioneer of the flugelhorn in jazz, and a composer and educator.

Clark Terry
Terry at the 1981 Monterey Jazz Festival
Background information
Birth nameClark Virgil Terry Jr.
Born(1920-12-14)December 14, 1920
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
DiedFebruary 21, 2015(2015-02-21) (aged 94)
Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  • Musician
  • composer
Years active1940s–2015
Associated acts

He played with Charlie Barnet (1947), Count Basie (1948–51),[2] Duke Ellington (1951–59),[2] Quincy Jones (1960), and Oscar Peterson (1964-96). He was with The Tonight Show Band from 1962 to 1972. His career in jazz spanned more than 70 years, during which he became one of the most recorded jazz musicians, appearing on over 900 recordings. Terry also mentored Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny, Dianne Reeves, and Terri Lyne Carrington.[3]

Early life

Terry was born to Clark Virgil Terry Sr. and Mary Terry in St. Louis, Missouri, on December 14, 1920.[1][2] He attended Vashon High School and began his professional career in the early 1940s, playing in local clubs. He served as a bandsman in the United States Navy during World War II. His first instrument was valve trombone.[4]

Big band era

Blending the St. Louis tone with contemporary styles, Terry's years with Basie and Ellington (who secretly recruited Terry away from Basie)[5] in the late 1940s and 1950s established his prominence. During his period with Ellington, he took part in many of the composer's suites and acquired a reputation for his wide range of styles (from swing to hard bop), technical proficiency, and good humor. Terry influenced musicians including Miles Davis and Quincy Jones, both of whom acknowledged Terry's influence during the early stages of their careers. Terry had informally taught Davis while they were still in St Louis,[6] and Jones during Terry's frequent visits to Seattle with the Count Basie Sextet.[7]

After leaving Ellington in 1959, Clark's international recognition soared when he accepted an offer from the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) to become a staff musician. He appeared for ten years on The Tonight Show as a member of the Tonight Show Band until 1972, first led by Skitch Henderson and later by Doc Severinsen, where his unique "mumbling" scat singing led to a hit with "Mumbles".[8] Terry was the first African American to become a regular in a band on a major US television network. He said later: "We had to be models, because I knew we were in a test.... We couldn't have a speck on our trousers. We couldn't have a wrinkle in the clothes. We couldn't have a dirty shirt."[9]

Terry continued to play with musicians such as trombonist J. J. Johnson and pianist Oscar Peterson,[10] and led a group with valve-trombonist Bob Brookmeyer that achieved some success in the early 1960s. In February 1965, Brookmeyer and Terry appeared on BBC2's Jazz 625.[11] and in 1967, presented by Norman Granz, he was recorded at Poplar Town Hall, in the BBC series Jazz at the Philharmonic, alongside James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Bob Cranshaw, Louie Bellson and T-Bone Walker.[12]

In the 1970s, Terry concentrated increasingly on the flugelhorn, which he played with a full, ringing tone. In addition to his studio work and teaching at jazz workshops, Terry toured regularly in the 1980s with small groups (including Peterson's) and performed as the leader of his Big B-A-D Band (formed about 1970). After financial difficulties forced him to break up the Big B-A-D Band, he performed with bands such as the Unifour Jazz Ensemble. His humor and command of jazz trumpet styles are apparent in his "dialogues" with himself, on different instruments or on the same instrument, muted and unmuted.

Later career

From the 1970s through the 1990s, Terry performed at Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, and Lincoln Center, toured with the Newport Jazz All Stars and Jazz at the Philharmonic, and was featured with Skitch Henderson's New York Pops Orchestra. In 1998, Terry recorded George Gershwin's "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot + Rhapsody, a tribute to George Gershwin, which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease.

In November 1980, he was a headliner along with Anita O'Day, Lionel Hampton and Ramsey Lewis during the opening two-week ceremony performances celebrating the short-lived resurgence of the Blue Note Lounge at the Marriott O'Hare Hotel near Chicago.

Prompted early in his career by Billy Taylor, Clark and Milt Hinton bought instruments for and gave instruction to young hopefuls, which planted the seed that became Jazz Mobile in Harlem. This venture tugged at Terry's greatest love: involving youth in the perpetuation of jazz. From 2000 onwards, he hosted Clark Terry Jazz Festivals on land and sea, held his own jazz camps, and appeared in more than fifty jazz festivals on six continents. Terry composed more than two hundred jazz songs and performed for eight U.S. Presidents.[13]

He also had several recordings with major groups including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Dutch Metropole Orchestra, and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, hundreds of high school and college ensembles, his own duos, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, octets, and two big bands: Clark Terry's Big Bad Band and Clark Terry's Young Titans of Jazz.

In February 2004, Terry guest starred as himself, on Little Bill, a children's television series. Terry was a resident of Bayside, Queens, and Corona, Queens, New York, later moving to Haworth, New Jersey, and then Pine Bluff, Arkansas.[14][15]

His autobiography was published in 2011.[3] Taylor Ho Bynum wrote in The New Yorker that it "captures his gift for storytelling and his wry humor, especially in chronicling his early years on the road, with struggles through segregation and gigs in juke joints and carnivals, all while developing one of most distinctive improvisational voices in music history."[16]

According to his own website Terry was "one of the most recorded jazz artists in history and had performed for eight American Presidents."[17]

In April 2014, the documentary Keep on Keepin' On, followed Terry over four years, to document his mentorship of the 23-year-old blind piano prodigy Justin Kauflin, as the Kauflin prepared to compete in an elite, international competition.[18]

In December 2014 the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and Cécile McLorin Salvant visited Terry, who had celebrated his 94th birthday on December 14, at the Jefferson Regional Medical Center. A lively rendition of "Happy Birthday" was played.[19]

Death and tributes

On February 13, 2015, it was announced that Terry had entered hospice care to manage his advanced diabetes.[20] He died on February 21, 2015.[21][22]

Writing in The New York Times, Peter Keepnews said Terry "was acclaimed for his impeccable musicianship, loved for his playful spirit and respected for his adaptability. Although his sound on both trumpet and the rounder-toned flugelhorn (which he helped popularize as a jazz instrument) was highly personal and easily identifiable, he managed to fit it snugly into a wide range of musical contexts."[23]

Writing in UK's The Daily Telegraph, Martin Chilton said: "Terry was a music educator and had a deep and lasting influence on the course of jazz. Terry became a mentor to generations of jazz players, including Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and composer-arranger Quincy Jones."[9]

Interviewing Terry in 2005, fellow jazz trumpeter Scotty Barnhart said he was "... one of the most incredibly versatile musicians to ever live ... a jazz trumpet master that played with the greatest names in the history of the music ..."[24]

Southeast Missouri State University hosts the Clark Terry/Phi Mu Alpha Jazz Festival, an annual tribute to the musician. The festival began in 1998, and has grown in size every year. The festival showcases outstanding student musicians and guest artists at the university's River Campus.[25][26]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Clark Terry among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[27]

Awards and honors

Over 250 awards, medals and honors, including:


As leader

  • Clark Terry (EmArcy, 1955)
  • The Jazz School with Joe Gordon, Paul Gonsalves (Wing, 1955)
  • Serenade to a Bus Seat (Riverside, 1957)
  • Duke with a Difference (Riverside, 1957)
  • Out on a Limb with Clark Terry (Argo, 1957)
  • In Orbit with Thelonious Monk (Riverside, 1958)
  • Top and Bottom Brass (Riverside, 1959)
  • Everything's Mellow (Prestige/Moodsville, 1961)
  • Color Changes (Candid, 1961)
  • Clark Terry Plays the Jazz Version of All American (Moodsville, 1962)
  • Back in Bean's Bag (Columbia, 1963)
  • Tread Ye Lightly (Cameo, 1964)
  • What Makes Sammy Swing (20th Century Fox, 1964)
  • The Happy Horns of Clark Terry (Impulse!, 1964)
  • The Power of Positive Swinging with Bob Brookmeyer (Mainstream, 1965)
  • Tonight with Bob Brookmeyer (Mainstream, 1965)
  • Gingerbread Men with Bob Brookmeyer (Mainstream, 1966)
  • Mumbles (Mainstream, 1966)
  • Spanish Rice with Chico O'Farrill (Impulse!, 1966)
  • It's What's Happenin' (Impulse!, 1967)
  • Soul Duo with Shirley Scott (Impulse!, 1967)
  • At the Montreux Jazz Festival (Polydor, 1970)
  • Previously Unreleased Recordings with Bob Brookmeyer (Verve, 1973)
  • Clark Terry's Big B-A-D Band Live at the Wichita Jazz Festival (Vanguard, 1975)
  • Oscar Peterson and Clark Terry (Pablo, 1975)
  • Wham/Live at the Jazz House (MPS, 1976)
  • Professor Jive (Inner City, 1976)
  • The Globetrotter (Vanguard, 1977)
  • Clark After Dark: The Ballad Artistry of Clark Terry (MPS, 1978)
  • Ain't Misbehavin' (Pablo, 1979)
  • Mother ! Mother ! with Zoot Sims (Pablo, 1980)
  • Memories of Duke (Pablo, 1980)
  • Yes, the Blues (Pablo, 1981)
  • To Duke and Basie (Enja, 1986)
  • Live 1964 (Emerald, 1987)
  • Portraits (Chesky, 1989)
  • Having Fun (Delos, 1990)
  • Live at the Village Gate (Chesky, 1991)
  • Music in the Garden (Jazz Heritage, 1993)
  • What a Wonderful World (Red Baron, 1993)
  • Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz with Guest Clark Terry (Jazz Alliance, 1994)
  • Big Band Basie with Frank Wess (Reference, 1995)
  • The Second Set: Recorded Live at the Village Gate (Chesky, 1995)
  • Clark Terry with Peewee Claybrook and Swing Fever (D'Note, 1995)
  • Live in Chicago Vol. 1 (Monad, 1995)
  • Live in Chicago Vol. 2 (Monad, 1995)
  • Clark Terry Express (Reference, 1996)
  • The Songs Ella and Louis Sang with Carol Sloane (Concord Jazz, 1997)
  • One on One (Chesky, 2000)
  • Mellow Moods (Prestige, 2001)
  • The Hymn (Candid, 2001)
  • Live in Concert (Image, 2001)
  • Friendship with Max Roach (Columbia, 2002)
  • George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (Americana, 2004)
  • Live at Marihans (Chiaroscuro, 2005)
  • Louie and Clark Expedition 2 with Louie Bellson (Percussion Power, 2008)
  • Carnegie Blues: The Music of Duke Ellington (Squatty Roo, 2015)

As sideman

With Gene Ammons

With Dave Bailey

With Ray Bryant

With Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

With Duke Ellington

With Stan Getz

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Johnny Griffin

With Johnny Hodges

With Milt Jackson

With J. J. Johnson

With Quincy Jones

With Mundell Lowe

With Herbie Mann

With Gary McFarland

With Charles Mingus

With Blue Mitchell

With Gerry Mulligan

With Oliver Nelson

With Oscar Peterson

With Dave Pike

With Lalo Schifrin

With Sonny Stitt

With Billy Taylor

With Cal Tjader

With others

See also


  • Let's Talk Trumpet: From Legit to Jazz (with Phil Rizzo), 1973
  • Clark Terry's System of Circular Breathing for Woodwind and Brass Instruments (with Phil Rizzo), 1975
  • Interpretation of the Jazz Language, Bedford, Ohio: M. A. S. Publishing Company, 1977
  • TerryTunes, anthology of 60 original compositions (1st edn, 1972; 2nd edn w/doodle-tonguing chapter, 2009)
  • "Clark Terry – Jazz Ambassador: C.T.'s Diary" [cover portrait], Jazz Journal International 31 (May 6, 1978): pp. 7–8.
  • "Jazz for the Record" [Clark Terry Archive at William Paterson University], The New York Times (December 11, 2004).
  • Beach, Doug, "Clark Terry and the St. Louis Trumpet Sound", Instrumentalist 45 (April 1991): 8–12.
  • Bernotas, Bob, "Clark Terry", Jazz Player 1 (October–November 1994): 12–19.
  • Blumenthal, Bob, "Reflections on a Brilliant Career" [reprint of JazzTimes 25, No. 8], Jazz Educators Journal 29, No. 4 (1997): 30–33, 36–37.
  • Ellington, Duke, "Clark Terry" chapter in Music is My Mistress (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973): 229–230.
  • LaBarbera, John, "Clark Terry: More Than 'Mumbles'", ITG Journal (International Trumpet Guild) 19, No. 2 (1994): 36–41.
  • Morgenstern, Dan, "Clark Terry" in Living With Jazz: A Reader (New York: Pantheon, 2004): 196–201. [Reprint of Down Beat 34 (June 1, 1967): 16–18.]
  • Owens, Thomas, "Trumpeters: Clark Terry", in Bebop: The Music and the Players (New York: Oxford, 1995): 111–113.
  • Terry, C. Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry, University of California Press (2011), ISBN 978-0520268463


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  3. Terry, C. Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry, University of California Press (2011).
  4. Stephen Graham. "Clark Terry has died". Marlbank. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  5. Clark! The Autobiography of Clark Terry. University of California Press. 2011. pp. 123–124, 126. ISBN 9780-520-26846-3 via
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  7. Jones, Quincy (1993). "Newport 1958". In Tucker, Mark (ed.). The Duke Ellington Reader. Oxford University Press. pp. 311–312. ISBN 0-19-509391-7.
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  15. Potter, Beth. "Haworth's Notable Characters", Haworth, New Jersey. Accessed June 22, 2010.
  16. Taylor Ho Bynum, "The Sound of Musical Joy: Clark Terry's Trumpet", The New Yorker, February 24, 2015.
  17. Neela Debnath (February 22, 2015). "Clark Terry dead: Grammy-winning trumpet player dies aged 94". The Independent. Retrieved February 23, 2015.
  18. A. O. Scott (October 2, 2014). "A Rare Musical Mentorship, Captured With Heart and Soul". Retrieved January 18, 2019.
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  20. Marc Schneider (February 13, 2015). "Jazz Great Clark Terry Enters Hospice Care". Billboard. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
  21. Marc Schneider (February 21, 2015). "Jazz Musician Clark Terry Dies at 94". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
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