What follows is a report from my friend Bob Montgomery, a fine Denver
trumpet player, who was invited to participate in the Clark Terry 80th
Birthday Celebration held at the University of New Hampshire.
Thought that you all might like to hear about the celebration of Clark Terrys 80th birthday.
We all gathered on the campus of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH on Wed Dec 13. Spent the day with Clark reminiscing about the days of yore spent together making music, chicks, and good times. Lots of good food, wine, hugging, and grins. Bob Brookmeyer and Roger Kellaway showed up late afternoon and with a bassists from Boston begin a rehearsal for the following evenings birthday concert.
The rehearsal consisted of any one of the three recalling a tune or arrangement that they had played together 35 years ago and the group immediately going into that tune without countoff or discussion. What an absolute joy to hear Clark, Bob and Roger together again. They couldn't stop smiling at each other. Huge grins as they recalled tune after tune and went into impromptu performances (including soloing and background figures). Later that day Clark rehearsed with an all star big band made up of former students of Dave Seiler of the University. Mostly Clarks old arrangements by Strayhorn, Heath, etc, but also two new charts written specially for this concert. A chart on "Lady Be Good" by Hal Crook and one on "Yesterdays" by Frank Mantooth. Hal and Frank were both there (Hal soloed with Clark). A major hang ensued into the wee early morning hours of the 14th.
On the 14th (Clarks 80th birthday) more folks showed up (including a surprise visit by Snooky Young) and the hang was unbelievable. Throughout the rehearsals Clark sounded GREAT. That wonderful sound, technique (his flexibilty is still amazing), and musicianship. He played throughout the rehearsal and played on EVERY tune of a 3 and a half hour concert. Our jaws were on the floor as we witnessed an 80 year old trumpet player performing with the stamina of a 30 year old. Clark played strong and long, and at the end of the concert showed no signs of tiring. Clark gets around mostly in a wheel chair, can walk for short distances, cannot see very well, and is looking frail, but his chops, humour, and originality are intact and AMAZING !!!!!!
A second major late night hang after the concert and Clark was there for all of it. I cannot empasize enough how great CT sounded. Neither Louis or Diz made it to 80 and the last few years of their playing life were a shadow of their former great selves, but CT at 80 is in his element (as was Doc Cheatam in his latter years). Everyone marveled at his and Bob Brookmeyers chops, and we all agreed that Roger Kellaway is one of the most underated pianists and composers on the planet. Sorry that this went on for so long, but it was an incredible week.
Love to all from Clark (he really loves trumpet players of all walks of life).