A quote from Clark, the autobiography of trumpeter Clark Terry:
“Emulate, assimilate, and innovate.” (Clark Terry)
Clark Terry’s formula for success is prominently displayed at the top of all my jazz improvisation course syllabi. A more succinct and accurate summary of the process for learning jazz doesn’t exist.
I just finished the Clark Terry autobiography and recommend it highly to anyone even remotely interested in jazz. Having played in the bands of Count Basie and Duke Ellington (among countless others), he has an incredible wealth of stories to share about his colleagues and employers, as well as valuable insights into how he learned and progressed as a player.
As I read, my recurring thought was how could he not sound the way he does, having lived all those wild experiences? In other words, Clark lived more life by the age of twenty than most do in a full lifetime.
The stories are as colorfully told as Clark’s solos are played. Jazz history, directly from the source. In short, it doesn’t get any better.
Below is some extraordinary footage of the Clark Terry/Bob Brookmeyer Quintet from 1965, which I had not seen until today. Isn’t YouTube an amazing treasure trove? I especially dug the expressive, blues drenched version of “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be,” starting at 19:10 (complete with a taste of Clark’s famous Mumbles routine).