Wynton Marsalis visited Pine Bluff yesterday to pay a visit to the 93-year-old jazz legend Clark Terry (currently accepting donations for his medical care). Terry, born in St. Louis and mentored by Louis Armstrong, played in bands with icons like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Quincy Jones, and was a stated influence on trumpeters like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie (who considered Terry the greatest jazz trumpeter in the world). He retired to Pine Bluff in 2006.
Marsalis and a group of other musicians had originally intended to perform for Terry on his birthday (Dec. 14) but decided to move quickly following Terry’s recent hospitalization. He described the scene on Facebook:
As Clark’s bed was wheeled in we launched into Duke and Strayhorn’s “Peanut Brittle Brigade” from their version of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker”. After playing, we each went over to his bed, introduced ourselves and said a little something about our pedigree and how much we appreciated his contributions to our personal development and to the music. He recognized each of us and responded to every salutation with some pithy comment of joyful appreciation.
We talked about how good it felt that many of us were moved to tears in his presence. And we weren’t emotional because he was blind and bedridden, or because he was having trouble hearing, had lost some of his limbs and was in a hospital. He’s 94! We were full of emotion because his presence reminded us of how much of himself he had given to the world, this country, our music, our instrument and each of us individually. And it hit us. All the gigs, recordings, lessons, bands, students, all state jazz orchestras, master classes, TV shows, world beating concerts with Basie and Ellington, his own groups, jam sessions – and all of it at the absolute highest level of engagement- was laying in the bed before us. And we wanted him to be proud and feel the love we felt for him. It was palpable. After we left I said, “Man, CT always had a way of lifting you up.” Ted countered and said, “HAD a way? He still IS that way. It was there today.”
Yeah. He blessed us.