This month, November 2002, was filled with possibilities if one is a Jazz lover in New York City. I chose to see Clark Terry one night at the Village Vanguard. He's still at it, and at 80-something years old, one has to give him credit for still playing great and pleasing audiences.
The band was composed of Clark Terry on trumpet and flugelhorn; David Glasser on alto sax; Don Friedman on piano; Marcus McLaurine on bass, and Sylvia Cuenca on drums.
Terry has some physical ailments at his age, including loss of sight, and was assisted to the stage. His sense of humor to the reality of the situation was apparent throughout the evening, however, and the audience was very supportive. The arrangement of the first tune of the set, "Secret Love," was made up of a trumpet introduction followed by Terry playing the head, while the band responded with rhythmical kicks. He continued on with a strong trumpet solo, swinging like crazy, using bebop licks, space in between the phrases, and blues runs. The alto player followed with a smooth solo, creating ideas that the crowd really enjoyed. The rhythm section was really tight: with Friedman, the pianist, steadily comping, and the bassist and drummer keeping perfect time.
The band had also worked out an arrangement for "Green Dolphin Street." Glasser played in a different style on this tune. With growls and effects like slides, honks, etc., he showed the audience that he knows the horn inside and out. He didn't hold anything back. Terry's flugelhorn solo contained quotes (e.g., "Star Eyes"), and exquisite bebop lines. The two of them played some great back-ups in harmony behind Friedman's piano solo. He had some great ideas at the piano, double-time runs and arpeggios, followed by two-fisted chords. Friedman is experienced, and has fabulous musicianship.
"Mood Indigo" was a feature for McLaurine, the bassist. The tune began as a duet with harmon-muted trumpet and bass, and just as everyone was getting relaxed, the drums led into a double-time swing. There was a twinkle in Clark's eye as at the moment we were used to this rhythm, they doubled it up again! The form stayed this way for the rest of the piece. During the bass solo, McLaurine got into some fast eighth notes and triplets, played way up on the neck of the bass. They finished the tune very softly, back in ballad tempo again.
The enjoyably famous version of "On the Trail" was next, and Glasser took the first solo on alto, playing cleanly this time, with no gimmicks, just pure emotion. Clark Terry wanted everyone to know what a great sense of humor he has, on top of being a consummate musician, so he started trading fours with himself on trumpet and flugelhorn, one in each hand!! (By the way, his trumpet was blue in color, along with brass.) Friedman just played on as if nothing was different, but Marcus and Sylvia smiled.
Being a woman drummer in the world of Jazz is no small feat, and I can't say enough about the energy people like Sylvia Cuenca have put into the music. All evening long, she was the backbone of the band, and every now and then she got a chance to stretch out. I commend Clark Terry for hiring a woman, and I commend her for staying with the group, rolling with the punches and playing beautifully.
"I Want a Little Girl" was Clark's vocal contribution to the evening, and the audience went crazy over this, as he is a real showman. The last tune of the set, "Over the Rainbow," was played as a fast samba. During the head I noticed how much the two horn players phrased alike. They've worked together long enough that their licks complement each other. Cuenca finally got an extended solo on drums, and brought the house down!
I encourage people to go out and hear live music, and I'll try to give you a little taste each month with more Notes From the Apple!
by Lucy Galliher
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