Clark Terry, the matchless trumpeter and flugelhorn player, was born 100 years ago today.
An ingenious improviser who brought his ebullient spirit to every bandstand, Terry achieved a rare degree of pop-culture recognition with Mumbles, a comic character based on his novelty tune. He also earned acclaim in the NBC studio orchestra, and the ranks of big bands led by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Gerry Mulligan and Quincy Jones.
Terry died in 2015, and was justly hailed as a monumental figure in the music. The previous year, he’d been the subject of an acclaimed documentary film, Keep On Keepin’ On, which chronicles his mentorship of a blind young pianist, Justin Kauflin, just as Terry himself is losing his sight. The film also features extensive interviews with Quincy Jones, who still considers Terry his guru.
“He was my idol, man,” Jones says in an interview with WBGO’s Gary Walker. “I was hellbent on just being around this man, to hear whatever he had to say.” Walker spoke with Jones as well as Kauflin and the filmmaker, first-time director Alan Hicks, for this special episode of The Checkout.
Watch Keep on Keepin’ On today for free, courtesy of IMDb TV.