At the age of 80, Clark Terry finally is being acknowledged as one of the greatest trumpet players in jazz. The crescendo of recognition started for his 75th birthday, when he made the cover of Down Beat, when he earned "Lifetime Recognition" awards left and right, and as, although not signed to a single label, he continued to release distinctive recordings solely or jointly. In spite of infirmity and age, Terry still is touring heavily and spreading his optimistic influence through music and through his sheer presence at workshops, concerts and festivals. What further proof is there that music keeps a person young?
One On One offers such proof, as not only Clark Terry, but other jazz masters make, in some cases, rare recorded contributions. Pianists like Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Sir Roland Hanna, Marian McPartland and Billy Taylor, all contemporaries of Terry's, display their massive knowledge gained from lifetimes in music as they accompany Terry. Just as important, Clark Terry and the pianists who appear on One On One share a respect for the tradition of the development of jazz. In the case of Benny Green, his latest release is evidence of such respect and his interests in re-presenting the style of legends like Fats Waller to a new generation, while inserting his own more modern language, sparingly, slyly and wisely. Eric Reed does the same thing. In spite of his excellence in advancing more modern music and his ability to illuminate the talent of singers, such as Mary Stallings, he too recognizes the fundamental basis for the music and its origins among the stride, ragtime and swing pianists who furthered the language of jazz.
But the consistent and unforgettable presence in One On One, of course, is Clark Terry. Perhaps the reason that he took years to receive the full recognition he deserves is his dedication to the instrument, shaping each note as if forming a word or carrying on his own conversation through the alternating use of mutesor through the concomitant use of trumpet and flugelhorn within the same chorus. While Louis Armstrong influenced groups and stepped out as a strong persona from the beginning, or while Dizzy Gillespie amazed contemporary musicians with his speed and mastery of bebop and while he later fronted his own bands, Clark Terry was content to work from within the confines of the bands he joined, including Count Basie's, Lionel Hampton's, Duke Ellington's, Quincy Jones' or even The Tonight Show's band. And while he led a few bands that were formed as circumstances allowed, such as his Big Bad Band, C.T. is known more for his astounding work on single recordings (like the serendipitous recording of his "Mumbles" routine on The Oscar Peterson Trio Plus One) or in more ad hoc groups.
One On One hints at Terry's stature and graciousness. Stature because 14 renowned pianists agreed to records duos with him over a 4-day span at St. Peter's Episcopal Church. Graciousness because Terry pays tribute, not to fellow trumpeters or to the big bands he was in, but to the inspirational work of innovators of jazz piano, the instrument of his guests. In fact, it seems that the piano players got to choose the tunes they performed because the liner notes include their comments about the value of the pianists they respect. For instance, we learn that Sir Roland Hanna still is in awe of Eubie Blake and finally figured out, after speaking to Blake, that Blake's big hands could play a twelfthsomething that Hanna found he is unable to do. Thus, he compensates by using two hands to approximate the Blake sound.
Terry, though, with his emphasis upon melody and warmth, personalizes each of the tunes with ease and yet the technical precision learned over more than 60 years, as he influenced other trumpet players like Miles Davis. His implicit swing, even on the long tones, of "Intimacy Of The Blues," carries the tune along, always surprising the listener with an outburst of exclamation is an extension of his self. On "Swingin' The Blues," Terry comes the closest to a "Mumbles" persona by whispering the first chorus as a "pssst," as if divulging a secret of what's to come.
Under-appreciated pianist Don Friedman, who holds down the piano chair in Terry's present group, pays tribute to Thelonious Monk, and the duo recalls the fact that Monk's music is derived from the blues, as "Blue Monk" stresses the blues' direct emotional appeal. Geri Allen's tribute to Lil Hardin Armstrong and Monty Alexander's to Nat Cole are naturals, their public appearances including tributes to the earlier piano players. And in hindsight, we realize that John Lewis' tribute to Earl Hines, "You Can Depend On Me," was one of his last recordings; he died three months later. Yet, his understated interpretation was graceful and profound as ever.
One On One is a superb recording of matured musicians of youthful spirit, in spite of their ages, who had nothing to prove. They recorded for the sheer joy that jazz imparts.
Track Listing: L.O.V.E., Just For A Thrill, Lisa All The Clouds'll Roll, Intimacy Of The Blues, You Can Depend On Me, Memories Of You, Honeysuckle Rose, Willow Grove, Solitude, Blue Monk, Misty, Swingin' The Blues, Jungle Blues, Skylark
Personnel: Clark Terry, trumpet; Monty Alexander, Geri Allen, Kenny Barron, Tommy Flanagan, Don Friedman, Benny Green, Sir Roland Hanna, Barry Harris, Eric Lewis, John Lewis, Marian McPartland, Junior Mance, Eric Reed, Billy Taylor