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Clark Terry's Big Bad Band, 1979


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Trumpeter and flugelhornist Clark Terry had a long career. His first recording session was as a leader, in 1947, with his Section Eights for V-Discs, a label started during the American Federation of Musicians recording ban of 1942-'44 that allowed music to be recorded for the Army provided the masters were destroyed. Soon V-Discs was provided to the Navy and Marines as well. Clark's last recording date was in 2008, in Florida.

Over the course of more than 60 years, Clark recorded on more than 950 sessions. This, of course, doesn't even account for his touring at clubs, festivals and other events that included performing for eight presidents. He played so often that he became one of the best and most celebrated players in the business with the warmest tone.

On September 6, 1979, Terry was leading his Big Bad Band on tour in Europe. When the band recorded a radio performance at Hilversum Studio for KRO-NCRV in Hilversum, the Netherlands, for later airing, he led quite a monster orchestra: Clark Terry (tp,flhrn,vcl,dir), Dale Carley, John Melito, Bob Montgomery and Oscar Gamby (tp); Hal Crook, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors and Richard Boone (tb); Chris Woods (as,flhrn); Charles Williams (as); Bill Saxton and Herman Bell (ts); Charles Davis (bar); Charles Fox (p); Victor Sproles (b) and Dave Adams (d).

Now, Denmark's Storyville label has released the recording from that day in 1979 as Clark Terry: Big Bad Band—-Live in Holland, 1979. The songs are A Toi; Rabdi; On the Trail; Don't Speak Now; Blues All Day, Blues All Night; Carney; Rock Skippin' at the Blue Note; Just Squeeze Me; Jeep's Blues; Shell Game; Mumbles; Una Mas and Take the “A" Train.

The 16-piece band has a tidy and soulful feel, similar in some ways to Quincy Jones's big bands in the 1950s and early '60s. The arrangements are by Phil Woods, Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington among others and are all dramatic, bluesy and sensual, especially on ballads. What you'll notice most about the band is how tight they play and how much the arrangements suit Clark's beautiful personality and his high standards for players and soloists. Clark made excellence seem so easy, or at least easy going.

Clark recorded about five Big Bad Band albums starting in 1970.

Clark Terry died in 2015.

JazzWax clips: Here's Carney...

And here's Jimmy Heath's arrangmenet of Kenny Dorham's Una Mas...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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