Clark Terry, one of the most influential trumpet and flugelhorn players for six decades, who mentored Quincy Jones, Miles Davis and Dianne Reeves, died Feb. 21 in Pine Bluff, Ark. He was 94.
Terry will be remembered for his great music, his undeniable sound, his witty jokes, his humorous stories and his heart, a giant reservoir full of love and compassion for anyone who crossed his path. He was superior in character and skill.
Terry was primarily responsible for introducing the flugelhorn and making it a part of the jazz ensemble. Along the way, he received more than 250 awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (2010), Trumpeter of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association (2005), NEA Jazz Master Award (1991), the French Order of Arts and Letters (2000), 16 honorary doctorates, a life-sized wax figure in the Black World History Museum, located in his hometown of St. Louis, and induction into the St. Louis Walk of Fame (1996).
During an interview with this writer, while celebrating the musician’s 80th birthday after being inducted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame, he commented, “I’m always flattered when people honor me. My main goal now is to impart as much education to the young musicians as possible. Now that I’ve reaped the benefits, I have to give back. You can’t write the stuff we’ve learned in books.”
The 2014 documentary “Keep On Keeping On,” directed and co-written by Alan Hicks, followed Terry’s four-year relationship with the blind piano prodigy Justin Kauflin as Terry served as a mentor and teacher.
“He always took my calls, or promptly called me back,” said writer and blogger Arnold J. Smith. “When the documentary came out, I called to congratulate him from the theater. He took the call for the last time.”
During the 1950s, Terry and Dizzy Gillespie often visited their Corona, Queens, neighbor Louis “Pops” Armstrong. Terry credited “Pops” with advising them to sing during their performances. If not for the advice, maybe Terry’s legendary “mumbles” would have never been heard.
After leaving Duke in 1959, he joined NBC’s Tonight Show Band (then in New York), playing alongside Doc Severinsen under the musical direction of Skitch Henderson. Terry was the first Black to become a band staff member on a major television network.
“Clark Terry’s trumpet and flugelhorn and vocal performances have always captured the essence of what great jazz is about,” stated trumpeter Jimmy Owens.
Terry was Jones’ first music teacher, and when the arranger-trumpeter asked Clark to try out his arrangements on the road, he agreed. During an interview, Terry said, “Man, Quincy’s arrangements were really bad, but I told him they were great and to keep working on them. It’s a good thing I did because look at him now.”
Born Dec. 14, 1920, in St. Louis, Mo., he attended Vashon High School and began playing paid gigs in local clubs in the early 1940s. He was one of the first Black recruits as a bandsman in the United States Navy during World War II.
Terry was one of the few musicians who played as a featured soloist in both the Count Basie and the Duke Ellington orchestras. He is one of the most recorded jazz musicians in history, appearing on more than 900 albums.
“Well, I’m too nervous to steal and too old to pimp, so I’ll keep doing the same thing until I get it right,” stated Terry, responding to this writer’s question to his plans after his 80th birthday celebration.
It seems Terry kept to his plan until the end. When his health no longer allowed him to play, he never stopped being an inspiring teacher and mentor to established and aspiring musicians.
Terry’s funeral and life celebration was held last week at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Terry’s quintet pianists Don Friedman and Helen Sung, saxophonist David Glasser, trumpeter Stantawn Kenerick, bassist Marcus McLaurine, and drummer Sylvia Cuenca all participated in musical selections with special guests Roy Hargrove and Jimmy Heath leading the tune “Round Midnight.”
“Clark Terry spoke in tongues. His music and mumbles [were] a conversation with God,” said the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III. “God translated what he said so we could understand him through his great music, generosity and love.”
A small ensemble with Wynton Marsalis of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led the recessional, playing “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” in a spirited, down-home New Orleans march. Terry was buried in the Bronx at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Cephas Bowles, a staunch advocate for public radio and jazz for more than four decades and the recently retired CEO and president of WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM, died Feb. 21 in Hackensack, N.J.
His death, at Hackensack University Medical Center Hospital, followed complications from a stem cell transplant, said his wife, Linda. He was 62.
A native of Newark and a resident of Dover, N.J., Bowles served as senior executive of WBGO-FM from 1993 to 2014, when he retired after medical leave. During his tenure in 1998, WBGO became the first jazz station to use the Internet to stream music around the world.
In 2012, he spearheaded a capital campaign that funded, built and began transmitting from a tower in Midtown Manhattan, significantly strengthening the station’s metro-area reach.
Bowles was born April 20, 1952. He graduated from Newark’s Barringer High School and went on to receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in radio-television broadcasting from Syracuse University (1974) and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Arizona.
It was at the Syracuse campus station, WAER, where he developed his love of music and passion for radio. One of the first trips he made after his transplant was to attend the September 2014 induction ceremony for the WAER Hall of Fame. His name was added to a list of previous inductees, including Ted Koppel and Mike Tirico, who have made marks on the field of broadcasting.
Bowles was the recipient of countless awards, including a Jazz Hero Award from the Jazz Journalists of America (2014), the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Ryan Community Service Award (2013), and WBGO Champion of Jazz Award (2013).
Philip Elberg, former WBGO board chairman, wrote on the tribute page, “I met Cephas the day he was interviewed at my office for the general manager job at WBGO. He was passionate about the music, about Newark and about the station. He taught us all a lot about how to build an institution, and I will always remember his enthusiasm, his dedication and his honesty.”
Bowles was a low-key gentleman who loved the music and was always a positive force when it came to giving aspiring musicians words of confidence and wisdom. He was mild-mannered and didn’t let his position stop him from being accessible to all of us. He represented Newark and jazz to the fullest. He will be missed.
Bowles was laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, N.J