Clark Terry IV – a nice story

A few years ago – 2008 maybe- Gwen and Clark Terry invited my wife, Laurie, and me to dinner at the Jazz Standard in New York City. We had been out to their house in New Jersey a year prior, where a large lower room was filled with Clark’s many awards and mementos. This was an equally special occasion, to dine and hear Frank Foster’s big band. The trumpet player Jon Faddis and his wife joined us at the table. Clark had been out of the public eye for at least a year. He was moving slowly, with a walker, due to back problems, also foot and vision problems from advanced diabetes. Frank Foster, the fine Basie saxophonist and notable arranger, was recovering from a stroke. This was his first reappearance. Predictably the place was full of musicians. When they became aware of Clark’s presence they approached the table in ones and twos to pay homage – there is no other word for it – to a player they all admired. You would have thought he was Abraham Lincoln. It was one of the more touching occasions I’ve been party to.

Due to his stroke, one of Frank Foster’s arms wasn’t allowing him the freedom of playing tenor. He was there strictly in a band leading role. But then he surprised everyone by unsheathing a trumpet – who knew that he could play that? – and challenged Clark to come up and join him. This couldn’t have been much of a surprise to Clark, because before I knew it, he’d produced a flugelhorn from out of nowhere. The two of them leaped into a standard, took solos, followed by eights, then fours, then twos amid a fair amount of hilarity. Frank Foster’s big band played great that night, but the one fine moment – the one everyone took home with them – was the one I just described.

As expected, the place exploded with applause, while the two heroes, bowing again and again, let the shining moment stand, without needless encore.

Bryan Gould, Bandleader, Swing Fever

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