Only once in a long while do I come across a soundtrack such as this one which is so easy to describe in one word – sublime. For people who like Jazz and for those new to it, this soundtrack is a master class delivered in parallel with a documentary film about one of its most accomplished and beloved masters, Clark Terry.
Unusually, this sound track tells the complete story all by itself, including some clips of actual conversations between the master and his pupil which were made as part of the documentary process. It certainly stands on its own feet as a complete and comprehensive audio and music documentary in its own right. As you might imagine, the musical contributors and production team are first class, including: Quincy Jones (Co-producer), Justin Kauflin (possibly Clark’s last protege), Dave Grusin, Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Count Basie.
The subject matter himself is a fascinating mix of genius, warmth, generosity, kindness and a musical / technical mastery and flair seldom seen in such a humble being. Born in 1920s Missouri, USA, Clarke Terry’s career spanned over 70 years and started out as sidemen to such greats as Duke Ellington and Count Basie. He performed and recorded hundreds of tracks with many Jazz superstars, including Thelonius Monk, Oscar Peterson (Mumbles), Quincy Jones (Remember Clifford) and the aforementioned Basie (Blee Blop Blues) and Ellington (Harlem Air Shaft). He worked on the Tonight show and toured internationally. Terry also influenced and mentored a who-is-who list of Jazz greats including Quincy Jones (his first pupil), Justin Kauflin (co star or the documentary) and the late great Miles Davis. Most of these artistes are featured on the sound track thus making this a biographical exploration of the 70 year career of the maestro.
Clark Terry’s mastery of the jazz Trumpet and Flugel horn is unquestionable, and his variety of styles ranging from scat and swing to bebop and big band is evident in the track selection, but his technical wizardry compares to none when he enters a two way conversation between trumpet and flugelhorn both played by himself (e.g. “Jim”)! The soundtrack album is well rounded out by original scores by David Grusin and Justin Kauflin, some of which provide glimpses into the immense talent and soul of the latter, Terry’s latest prodigy and pupil over the 5 year course of making the documentary.
Although Clark Terry died as recently as February 2015, like all genuine artistes, his is a gift and presence that endures and will continue to endure for millenia, as long as people play, perform and listen to that original musical artform called Jazz.