Jazz Institute of Chicago

Clark Terry, Part 2

CLARK TERRY, Part 2
with Steve Voce

Click here for Part One

This interview was done for Jazz Journal in 1985

The reason Duke didn't write anything to feature me was that he was very busy at that period writing all the suites. Another thing, we had a saying that as a new guy coming into the band you didn't dare put your laundry in until after about five or six years because you didn't know if you were going to be there permanently or not. Maybe after about 10 years he would have thought, "Well, I'll write a few things for him."
He did use me in the suites. In Such Sweet Thunder I had the role of the funster Puck where I had to create a voice effect with the cocked valve and say, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!

I did some writing for the band myself and you can hear my style in things like Jones. Duke gets half composer credit and Barney Bigard always claimed that he wrote Mood Indigo, but the main credit there goes to Duke too.

He was very well known for that. For instance Cootie had as his warm-up before a session the phrases that Duke later turned into Concerto For Cootie and Do Nothin' Til You Hear From Me. Duke wrote down his warm-up. But Cootie would never have made a tune out of that, so if it hadn't been for Duke there wouldn't have been the two or three very beautiful tunes that fit right in there with the same set of chord changes.

So Duke wasn't really a person who stole things, he used the ideas of his surroundings, which were the guys in his band, and they used to say that Ellington could play his band like an instrument. It's so true. Like he did with me in A Drum Is A Woman. He said "Hey, Sweetie, you're going to portray the role of Buddy Bolden." Obviously I'd never heard Buddy Bolden, but after about five or ten minutes of convincing me that I could do it, I thought I was Buddy Bolden. "That's it!" he shouted. "You're Buddy Bolden!"

He was very good at that. I would say it was very important that he took some of these ideas—perhaps even Barney would never have written down Mood Indigo, but Duke did it and of course with his harmonic structures&151;neither Cootie nor Barney had the expertise or the know-how to voice and compose and arrange like Duke did, so I think it was a beautiful idea.

Now about Jones, it was customary always if a member of the band brought a tune in, Duke would say "OK, we'll play it." If he liked it he'd explain that, in order to record it, he would have to make himself half-composer. But what you didn't realise was that he was going to publish it too—he had his own publishing company. First of all, publishing-wise, half belongs to the publishing company, so he's already got half of it. Now he's half-writer of it as well, so whack! There goes another bit, and he's got six bits and you got a quarter!

I was with Duke for almost nine years. Many many people ask me why I left. It was almost like they thought I'd left heaven to go to hell or something, but people don't realise that a musician is constantly trying to better his financial condition. There were occasions when I went out on a gig for someone else and on just half of the gig I made as much as I would have done in two full weeks with Ellington. It's sad, but it's true.

I left the band to join the show Free And Easy which Quincy Jones was putting together. We were due to go to Europe with Duke's band, so I went to him and said, "Maestro, I don't particularly want to go this time." He said, "Oh, come on! You've got to go!" At that time my salary was $235 a week. I knew I had a deal with Quincy making about $200 a week more. I said, "If you need me, just pay me! $450 a week." He said, "You drive a hard bargain, Sweetie!" "I can get you a guy for $200, Duke," I told him. So he said, "Yeah, but he's not you!" We didn't discuss it any longer, but then he came back later and said "Well, I think you win. We'll give it to you." So I was on $450, but just for the European tour.

When I was with Quincy at first I was the contractor, that is the guy who hires the musicians, but after a lot of politicking Jerome Richardson, who thought he should have had the job, finally got it. All of a sudden I wasn't being called, although I had called him for all the jobs. Same thing happened to me with another good friend of ours. There's an organisation in New York called Mark Brown Productions. Mark and I were very good friends. He needed a couple of guys to write for him and I got Jay Jay Johnson the gig. I had hired Jay Jay on contracts, you know.
So Jay Jay got the gig with an office and a secretary, and all of a sudden he's hiring people and Mark comes to him and says, "Where's Clark? I don't see him on any of the gigs," and Jay Jay says, "I don't know, he's probably busy." So Mark calls me and asked if I had been busy on any of the dates. "No," I said. So then he passes the word down that for all the dates hereafter the first person to be called is Clark. If he's not available make the dates so that he is available.

The studio work was drudgery to a degree, but we did have a chance to play lots of new and varied music and at the same time we were in a position to do all of the club things. There are many times when there was so much to do that you would start early in the morning and work straight through the day and work your show at the studio. Then if you did a jazz club like Bob Brookmeyer and I used to do the Half Note, we'd finish so late in the morning that we couldn't even go home. We'd have to stay in a hotel close to the next morning's gig. One of the old timers warned me when I first went into the studio: This is referred to as 'The House', but remember, Clark, a house is not home!

Bob Brookmeyer and I got along beautifully and we still do. That band which included Roger Kellaway, was the product of a sort of mutual admiration society, because I'd always loved Brookmeyer, and my first instrument had been valve trombone. He was a fan of mine so we had it automatically made because we both had great respect for each other. The merger of the flugel horn and the valve trombone, two illegitimate scale instruments, played by guys who had put lots of time into them, seemed natural. It like the fish horn, the soprano, it had the same difficulties.

I first took to the flugel horn in November, 1957. The horns made a beautiful marriage and Bob and I were good friends so the result was good, happy music. We were fortunate enough to get some good players in the rhythm section and we had some good tunes together. W had a nice 'home' at the Half Note where we could go in any time and play as long as we wanted. There were three groups Zoot and Al, Jimmy Rushing and our group used to take turns playing there.

Bob and I first met when he was on tour with Gerry Mulligan's Quartet and I was on the same tour with Ellington. We shared a dressing room together. Bob was very much in his cups in those days and Mulligan was married to a very strange lady. Then Bob and I were in the Gerry Mulligan Concert Band together just before we formed our own group.

What was Gerry like to work for? Kind; different! He was very much of a perfectionist. He still is today. He brought a group on a cruise last year. They thought they'd just come on and play a couple of times a day, but he rehearsed them even day for a couple of hours and the guys didn't like it too much. He's a great player and a good writer. He writes some excellent tunes. But I think he's made a lot of enemies. Some of the guys who've worked with him are not too fond of him. I like him. He always has superb big bands.

I've always loved big bands, and of course had my own for a long time. In that first one we had a lot of youngsters who were then on their way up, people like Randy Brecker, Lew Soloff and Lloyd Michaels, as well as veterans like Frank Wess, Ray Copeland, Chris Woods, Ernie Wilkins, Ernie Royal, Ron Carter and Grady Tate. I recorded the band under my own label and fortunately, with a Japanese company ordering a couple of thousand and Big Bear in England using a lot more, I almost broke even on that!

As it is, I'm very happy because Ursula and I are fortunate enough to enjoy the best of both worlds, Europe and America, and it's nice that way. We spend half the year in New York and half in Zurich.

I was directly responsible for the return to manufacturing of the flugel horn. I used to tell Keith Ecker, who was technical adviser on brass at Selmer in Akron, Indiana, "I'd like some kind of horn with a more intimate sound." I used to put the felt hat over the bell of the trumpet to acquire the intimacy which I had always sought. "What about the old flugel horns they used to use all those years ago?

Now there'd been a couple of guys who used them, Shorty Rogers and Miles Davis, but they both put trumpet mouthpieces in them and played very high because of the larger tubing. They were using them in that fashion and the horns weren't really good models or old models so Keith said, "Let's just see what we can put together." We sat in this basement and got some tubing and put it together and tried different curvatures and tubing and so forth, and eventually we put together this horn right in his basement. The very first one that was made by Selmer was the one that I was playing.

One of the first jobs I had after I had got it was a record date for Riverside. I used Thelonious Monk as a sideman, but when Monk died they brought the record out as by Monk with me as a sideman! I'd played with him on his Brilliant Corners album. It was always a challenge playing with him and I always loved his music. I feel that he was creative and as different from other musicians as Ellington was, although he didn't have the finesse nor was he as knowledgeable as Duke. I think Monk took much of his style from Ellington and he would like to have been an accomplished pianist who could have articulated in the fashion of Ellington. Ellington was a great pianist, as you know—a lot of people are asleep on that. Monk wanted to play like that but because of his shortcomings he was thrown into another category which, although it was a strange type of playing, created something that was different. We love him for that.

I was surprised when he agreed to do the gig with me. I thought he would probably say no, but he was happy to and he was very easy to work with. He had his moments, but he was a beautiful person and I loved him very much. I wrote most of the pieces for the session and when they reissued it some years later, they retitled one of my pieces.

I had a brief foray with the electric trumpet. I was with the Selmer Company. I felt so bad about that because it was teaching young people to rely on a gimmick. But I was being paid to do it and what could I do? I still have the gadget at home in my garage. I look at it with contempt and spit on it occasionally. I made that one record with it, It's What's Happening.

It's funny, you practise and practise all your life to try to become as near perfect as you can on the trumpet, try to articulate, manipulate and do everything to have the right sound and then you make one record of a stupid song where nobody knows what you're singing and it opens up all the doors that you thought would have been opened by practising legitimate trumpet.

Brotherhood Of Man? Yes, I recorded it twice. It came from the show How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. I did it once with Gary McFarland and the other time was with Gerry Mulligan's group. Both versions were at the same tempo and in E flat. They were pretty much at the same time, because that tune was very popular then.

Gary McFarland was a fantastic talent. It was such a waste that he went out the way that he did. He was just a beautiful cat. He was in a bar with some friends and he did something very stupid. They were playing Russian Roulette with a poisonous drink. He swizzled it around with the other drinks, and he got the bullet. He was just that daring type of person, like Joe Maini in California doing the same with a gun, spun the chamber around, put the gun to his head and just happened to get the bullet.

With Oliver Nelson I did that tribute to Louis on Winchester Cathedral and do you know, I haven't heard that thing to this day. I would love to have a copy of it. I was trying to pay tribute to Pops and in retrospect I think about how important that was because later on towards the end of Pops' career I had occasion to go by his house, to tell him that Harvard University wanted to offer him an honorary doctor's degree. He was still in good spirits, but his limbs were very frail and he was very thin—he'd lost lots of weight. It was about three and a half weeks before his total demise. He called me in and asked how I was. "I'm fine, Pops, aside from just the pleasure of coming by just to see you and be inspired and get my batteries charged again. I'm on a special mission because Harvard University wants to offer you an honorary doctor's degree." So he said, "The hell with 'em, Daddy. Where were they 40 years ago when I needed them?

The last thing he said to me, he said, "Yeah, Pops, you know you're my man!" He looked me up and down and he said, "I love you, you're Pops' man and I gotta tell you one thing, you know. The people love trumpet playing, but you gotta sing more. People like to hear you sing." I took that as good advice and I try to include a little singing in every performance I do.'