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Tue, 12.14.1920

Clark Terry, Trumpeter born

Clark Terry Jr.

*On this date in 1920, Clark Terry was born.  He was a Black trumpeter, a pioneer of the flugelhorn in jazz, and a composer and educator.  

Clark Virgil Terry Jr. was born to Clark Virgil Terry Sr. and Mary Terry in St. Louis, Missouri.  He attended Vashon High School and began his professional career in the early 1940s, playing in local clubs. He served as a bandsman in the United States Navy during World War II. His first instrument was the valve trombone. 

He played with Charlie Barnet (1947), Count Basie (1948–51), Duke Ellington (1951–59), Quincy Jones (1960), and Oscar Peterson (1964-96). He was with The Tonight Show Band from 1962 to 1972. His career in jazz spanned more than 70 years, during which he became one of the most recorded jazz musicians, appearing on over 900 recordings. Terry also mentored Jones, Miles DavisHerbie HancockWynton Marsalis, Pat Metheny, Dianne Reeves, and Terri Lyne Carrington. 

In his autobiography published in 2011,  Taylor Ho Bynum wrote in The New Yorker that it "captures his gift for storytelling and his wry humor, especially in chronicling his early years on the road, with struggles through segregation and gigs in juke joints and carnivals, all while developing one of most distinctive improvisational voices in music history." According to his own website Terry was "one of the most recorded jazz artists in history and had performed for eight American Presidents." 

In 2014, the documentary Keep on Keepin' On followed Terry for over four years to document his mentorship of the 23-year-old blind piano prodigy Justin Kauflin as Kauflin prepared to compete in an elite international competition.  In December 2014, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and Cécile McLorin Salvant visited Terry, who had celebrated his 94th birthday on December 14, at the Jefferson Regional Medical Center. A lively rendition of "Happy Birthday" was played.  

It was announced on February 13, 2015, that Terry had entered hospice care to manage his advanced diabetes. Clark Terry Jr. died on February 21, 2015.   

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