Clark Terry

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Clark Terry
Clark Mumbles Terry.jpg
Terry in New York City, 1976
Background information
Born (1920-12-14) December 14, 1920 (age 94)
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Genres Jazz, swing, bebop, hard bop
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Trumpet, flugelhorn
Years active 1940s–present
Labels Prestige, Pablo, Candid, Mainstream, Impulse!
Associated acts Charlie Barnet, Count Basie, Bob Brookmeyer, Clifford Brown, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, J.J. Johnson, Quincy Jones, Yusef Lateef, Charles Mingus, Blue Mitchell, Oliver Nelson, Oscar Peterson, Lalo Schifrin, Billy Taylor

Clark Terry (born December 14, 1920)[1] is an American swing and bebop trumpeter, a pioneer of the flugelhorn in jazz, educator, and NEA Jazz Masters inductee.

He played with Charlie Barnet (1947), Count Basie (1948–1951),[1] Duke Ellington (1951–1959)[1] and Quincy Jones (1960). Terry's career in jazz spans more than seventy years and he is one of the most recorded of jazz musicians.


Terry was born in St. Louis, Missouri. 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.

Terry's years with Basie and Ellington in the late 1940s and 1950s established him as a world-class jazz artist. Blending the St. Louis tone with contemporary styles, Terry's sound influenced a generation. During this period, he took part in many of Ellington'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 Clark's influence during the early stages of their careers. Terry had informally taught Davis while they were still in St Louis.[citation needed]

After leaving Ellington, Clark's international recognition soared when he accepted an offer from the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) to become its first African-American staff musician. He appeared for ten years on The Tonight Show as a member of The Tonight Show Band, first led by Skitch Henderson and later by Doc Severinsen, where his unique "mumbling" scat singing led to a hit with "Mumbles".[citation needed] In the 1980s he was a featured soloist with the TONIGHT band, performing in front of the band. In November 1980 Clark Terry 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. He was introduced to great acclaim by Chicago jazz disc-jockey Dick Buckley.

Terry continued to play with musicians such as trombonist J. J. Johnson and pianist Oscar Peterson,[2] and led a group with valve-trombobist Bob Brookmeyer that achieved some success in the early 1960s. In February 1965 Brookmeyer and Terry appeared on BBC2's Jazz 625.[3] In the 1970s, Terry concentrated increasingly on the flugelhorn, which he plays 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. He has occasionally performed solos on a trumpet or flugelhorn mouthpiece.

Terry at the 1981 Monterey Jazz Festival (Photo: Brian McMillen).

From the 1970s through the 1990s, Clark 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 2001, he again recorded for the Red Hot Organization with artist Amel Larrieux for the compilation album Red Hot + Indigo, a tribute to Ellington.

Prompted early in his career by Dr. 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. Between global performances, he continues to share his jazz expertise and encourage students. Since 2000, Terry has 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 seven U.S. Presidents.[citation needed]

He also has 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. The Clark Terry Archive at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, contains instruments, tour posters, awards, original copies of over 70 big band arrangements, recordings and other memorabilia.

Terry is one of the most prolifically recorded jazz musicians, having appeared on the results of 905 known recording sessions. In comparison, Louis Armstrong performed at 620 sessions, Harry "Sweets" Edison on 563, and Dizzy Gillespie on 501. He was the recipient of the 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Only four other trumpet players have received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award: Louis Armstrong (Terry's mentor), Miles Davis (whom Terry mentored), Dizzy Gillespie (who often described Terry as the greatest jazz trumpet player on earth) and Benny Carter.[citation needed]

Terry was a long-time resident of Bayside, Queens, and Corona, Queens, New York.[4] He and his wife, Gwen, later moved to Haworth, New Jersey.[5] They currently[when?] reside in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.[6]

A 2014 documentary Keep on Keepin' On follows Clark Terry over four years to document the mentorship between Terry and 23-year-old blind piano prodigy Justin Kauflin as the young man prepares to compete in an elite, international competition.[7]

Awards and honors[edit]

Over 250 awards, medals and honors, including:


Terry performing with the Great Lakes Navy Band Jazz Ensemble

As leader[edit]

  • Clark Terry (EmArcy, 1955) – also released as Introducing Clark Terry and Swahili
  • Serenade to a Bus Seat (Riverside, 1957)
  • Out on a Limb with Clark Terry (Argo, 1957)
  • Duke with a Difference (Riverside, 1957)
  • In Orbit (Riverside, 1958) – with Thelonious Monk
  • Top and Bottom Brass (Riverside, 1959) with Don Butterfield
  • Paris, 1960 (Swing, 1960)
  • Color Changes (Candid, 1960)
  • Everything's Mellow (Moodsville, 1961)
  • Previously Unreleased Recordings (Verve, 1962 [1974]) - with Bob Brookmeyer
  • All American (Prestige, 1962)
  • Eddie Costa: Memorial Concert (Colpix, 1962) - one side of shared LP with the Coleman Hawkins Sextet
  • 3 in Jazz (RCA, 1963) - shared LP with Sonny Rollins and Gary Burton
  • More (Theme from Mondo Cain) (Cameo, 1963)
  • What Makes Sammy Swing (20th Century, 1963)
  • Tread Ye Lightly (Cameo, 1963)
  • Oscar Peterson Trio + One (Verve, 1964) - with Oscar Peterson
  • The Happy Horns of Clark Terry (Impulse!, 1964)
  • Live 1964 (Emerald, 1964)
  • Tonight (Mainstream, 1964) - with Bob Brookmeyer
  • The Power of Positive Swinging (Mainstream, 1965) - with Bob Brookmeyer
  • Mumbles (Mainstream, 1966) - also released as Angyumaluma Bongliddleany Nannyany Awhan Yi!
  • Gingerbread Men (Mainstream, 1966)
  • Spanish Rice (Impulse!, 1966) - with Chico O'Farrill
  • It's What's Happenin'' (Impulse!, 1967)
  • Music in the Garden (Jazz Heritage, 1968)
  • Clark Terry at the Montreux Jazz Festival (Polydor, 1969)
  • Live at the Wichita Jazz Festival (Vanguard, 1974)
  • Clark Terry and His Jolly Giants (Vanguard, 1975)
  • Live at the Wichita Jazz Festival (Vanguard, 1975)
  • Oscar Peterson and Clark Terry (Pablo, 1975)
  • Oscar Peterson and the Trumpet Kings – Jousts (Pablo, 1975)
  • Clark Terry's Big B-A-D Band Live at Buddy's... (Vanguard, 1976)
  • Live at the Jazz House (Pausa, 1976)
  • Wham (BASF, 1976)
  • Squeeze Me (Chiaroscuro, 1976)
  • The Globetrotter (Vanguard, 1977)
  • Out of Nowhere (Bingow, 1978)
  • Brahms Lullabye (Amplitude, 1978)
  • Funk Dumplin's (Matrix, 1978)
  • Clark After Dark (MPS, 1978)
  • Mother______! Mother______! (Pablo, 1979)
  • Ain't Misbehavin' (Pablo, 1979)
  • Live in Chicago, Vol. 1 (Monad, 1979)
  • Live in Chicago, Vol. 2 (Monad, 1979)
  • The Trumpet Summit Meets the Oscar Peterson Big 4 (1980)
  • Memories of Duke (Pablo/OJC, 1980)
  • Yes, the Blues (Pablo/OJC, 1981)
  • Jazz at the Philharmonic - Yoyogi National Stadium, Tokyo 1983: Return to Happiness (1983)
  • To Duke and Basie (Rhino, 1986)
  • Jive at Five (Enja, 1986)
  • Metropole Orchestra (Mons, 1988)
  • Portraits (Chesky, 1988) – with Don Friedman (p), Victor Gaskin (b) Lewis Nash (d)
  • The Clark Terry Spacemen (Chiaroscuro, 1989)
  • Locksmith Blues (Concord Jazz, 1989)
  • Having Fun (Delos, 1990)
  • Live at the Village Gate (Chesky, 1990)
  • Live at the Village Gate: Second Set (Chesky, 1990)
  • What a Wonderful World: For Lou (Red Baron, 1993)
  • Shades of Blues (Challenge, 1994)
  • Remember the Time (Mons, 1994)
  • With Pee Wee Claybrook & Swing Fever (D' Note, 1995)
  • Top and Bottom Brass'[' (Chiaroscuro, 1995)
  • Reunion (D'Note, 1995)
  • Express (Reference, 1995)
  • Good Things in Life (Mons, 1996)
  • Ow (E.J.s) 1996)
  • The Alternate Blues (Analogue, 1996)
  • Ritter der Ronneburg, 1998 (Mons, 1998)
  • One on One (Chesky, 2000)
  • A Jazz Symphony (Centaur, 2000)
  • Herr Ober: Live at Birdland Neuburg (Nagel-Heyer, 2001)
  • Live on QE2 (Chiaroscuro, 2001)
  • Jazz Matinee (Hanssler, 2001)
  • The Hymn (Candid, 2001)
  • Clark Terry and His Orchestra Featuring Paul Gonsalves [1959] (Storyville, 2002)
  • Live in Concert (Image, 2002)
  • Flutin' and Fluglin (Past Perfect, 2002)
  • Friendship (Columbia, 2002)
  • Live! At Buddy's Place (Universe, 2003)
  • Live at Montmarte June 1975 (Storyville, 2003)
  • George Gershwin's Porgy & Bess (A440 Music Group, 2004)
  • Live at Marian's with the Terry's Young Titans of Jazz (Chiaroscuro, 2005)

As sideman[edit]

Terry performing at The White House with singer Nnenna Freelon in 2006

With Gene Ammons

With Dave Bailey

With George Barnes

With Willie Bobo

With Clifford Brown

With Gary Burton

With Charlie Byrd

With Tadd Dameron

With Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

With Duke Ellington

With Art Farmer

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Paul Gonsalves

With Johnny Griffin

With Dave Grusin

With Lionel Hampton

With Chico Hamilton

With Jimmy Heath

With Milt Jackson

With Elvin Jones

With Sam Jones

With Quincy Jones

With Yusef Lateef

With Mundell Lowe

With Junior Mance

With Gary McFarland

With Charles Mingus

With Blue Mitchell

With the Modern Jazz Quartet

With Mark Murphy

With Oliver Nelson

With Chico O'Farrill

With Sonny Rollins

With Lalo Schifrin

With Sonny Stitt

With Billy Taylor

With Cecil Taylor

With Ed Thigpen

With Teri Thornton

With McCoy Tyner

With Randy Weston

With Jimmy Woode

With Various artists


  • Clark Terry's System of Circular Breathing for Woodwind and Brass Instruments
  • Let's Talk Trumpet: From Legit to Jazz
  • Interpretation of the Jazz Language
  • TerryTunes, anthology of 60 original compositions (1st ed., 1972; 2nd ed. w/doodle-tonguing chapter, 2009)
  • "Clark Terry – Jazz Ambassador: C.T.'s Diary" [cover portrait] Jazz Journal International 31 (May 6, 1978): 7–8.
  • "Jazz for the Record" [Clark Terry Archive at William Paterson University], 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 Jazz Times 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, Clark. "Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry" University of California Press (2011).


  1. ^ a b c Yanow, Scott Clark Terry biography at allmusic
  2. ^ Oscar Peterson and Clark Terry at AllMusic
  3. ^ "Tribute to Bob Brookmeyer". December 19, 2011. Retrieved February 10, 2014. 
  4. ^ Berman, Eleanor. "The jazz of Queens encompasses music royalty", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 1, 2006. Accessed October 1, 2009. "When the trolley tour proceeds, Mr. Knight points out the nearby Dorie Miller Houses, a co-op apartment complex in Corona where Clark Terry and Cannonball and Nat Adderley lived and where saxophonist Jimmy Heath still resides."
  5. ^ Potter, Beth. "Haworth's Notable Characters", Haworth, New Jersey. Accessed June 22, 2010.
  6. ^ Potter, Beth. Accessed Sept 28, 2010.[dead link]
  7. ^
  8. ^ Jazz at Lincoln Center's Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame. "Art Blakey, Lionel Hampton, and Clark Terry inducted into Jazz at Lincoln Center's Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame". Retrieved June 12, 2013. 
  9. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". Retrieved April 25, 2013. 

External links[edit]