The solo saxophone recital has seldom been the medium of choice for mainstream players, but then again Sue Terry has never been your typical jazz saxophonist. A protégé of Jackie McLean who was subsequently mentored by the late great tenor sax giants Clifford Jordan and Junior Cook and living legend Barry Harris, Terry is one of the very few female horn players to achieve acceptance on the tough New York hard bop scene in the ‘80s. Sweet Sue, as she’s been dubbed by her mentors, does bring a certain special sensibility to her instrument, but is more attributable to her philosophy of life than her gender. A practitioner of the ancient arts of Qigong and Taiji Quan, Terry’s adherence to the Taoist principles of life so permeates her holistic approach to creating music that her solo performances can be heard more as duets between her horn and the sounds of silence. Pink Slimy Worm
(the title comes from a famous classical composer’s derogatory description of the saxophone) combines composed and improvised pieces for alto and soprano that manage to be musical in a variety of ways, at times recalling the solo works of Lee Konitz, Oliver Lake, Bobby Watson and Paul Horn. Terry’s tone, personal and classic at the same time, is at the heart of the date’s attractiveness; her broad sound can be both smooth and sweet or dark and gritty and she fluidly modulates her tonality, often in call and response patterns, to avoid monotony. Drawing from a wealth of experience—jazz, classical, new age, avant-garde, rhythm and blues, Eastern, Afro-Cuban and new music—the date’s fifteen tracks, variably programmatic and impressionistic, come together as a thoroughly honest vision of the world she lives in—one in which music exists as a powerful healing force, from the ancient to the future.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York