Top and Bottom Brass: CLARK TERRY Quintet
Clark Terry (tp, flh) Don Butterfield (tuba) Jimmy Jones (p) Sam Jones (b) Art Blakey (drs)
NYC; February 24 & 26, 1959
Mili-Terry (4:12) (Terry-Smith)
The Swinging Chemise (6:54) (Ellington – Reddon)
My Heart Belongs to Daddy (3:06) (Cole Porter)
Blues for Etta (7:14) (Terry – Grant)
Top ‘n’ Bottom (4:45) (Clark Terry)
“127” (7:58) (Pauline Terry)
A Sunday Kind of Love (3:20) (Belle – Leonard – Rhodes – Prima)
Mardi Gras Waltz (4:10) (Clark Terry)
CLARK TERRY is a musician whose virtues include such rare qualities as real humor and inventiveness. Both qualities are very much in evidence in this intriguing album, which uniquely utilizes trumpet and tuba together as the entire ‘front line’ of a jazz group – and which does so with a liberal display of wit and good humor.
I have always found it difficult to understand the scarcity of humor in jazz. While jazz creativity is primarily a serious-minded matter, and the world in which jazz functions may often be a tough, angry or even sordid one, this really doesn’t seem sufficient explanation for the drastically short supply of it, satire and general musical good spirits, and for the scarcity of men who can perform at least some of the time with an awareness that fun can swing, too.
Clark Terry has long been a notable exception to this sad state of affairs, an expert in making use of men and material which can make possible the creation of good-humored, clever and/or downright funny music. One outstanding example of this was in his wonderfully light-collaboration with Thelonious Monk (whose own sense of humor should not be under-rated) on the album entitled “On Orbit” (Riverside RLP 12-271). And on the present LP there are such choice items as Mili-Terry, Mardi Gras Waltz, the rollicking treatment of My Heart Belongs to Daddy, and the wild Terry solo on trumpet mouthpiece (!) in Blues for Etta.
This should not be taken to mean that this is a comic album. Inventiveness was another quality noted above, and that is certainly a proper descriptive word for the unusual and varied presentation of the trumpet-tuba combination here. In jazz, it isn’t too difficult to think up a preciously untried “new sound.” The trick is to come up with such an idea that is really valid and interesting, and to have the ability to carry it through successfully. On this LP, Terry, with much able assistance from a highly skilled and amazingly fluent tuba player, DON BUTTERFIELD, has accomplished the difficult and done it very well indeed.
The tuba is no stranger to jazz; it was a standard part of the rhythm section for many years before being replaced by the string bass, and has turned up on several occasions in modern groups. But its use here in tandem with trumpet or fluegelhorn is a definite first. And with Butterfield’s tuba carrying a full work load as a melodic horn – in ensemble, in solo blowing, and in spritely give-and-take interplay with Terry – this partnership of top and bottom brass turns out to be a fully logical and fascinating concept. Don stresses this logic by pointing out that “the relationship of trumpet and tuba is actually the same as that of violin and double bass, clarinet and bass clarinet, alto sax and bass sax. I have always maintained,” he notes, “that the true name for the tuba should be ‘contra-bass trumpet.’ The only real difference is in size.
Terry and Butterfield first met when Clark did a turn as guest soloist at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. (Don has long been a regular member of the orchestra there.) Mutual musical admiration led eventually to the joint idea for this recording. Terry’s frequent road trips with the much-travelling Duke Ellington band made it difficult to find time to plan and prepare, but eventually these eight selections were ready. Most of the scoring is by Terry, with Butterfield’s friend Dick Lieb (whose knowledge of the capabilities of brass instruments stems from long playing experience) contributing the moody ballad styling for A Sunday Kind of Love and the tongue-in-cheek workout on My Heart Belongs to Daddy.
CLARK TERRY has until recently suffered the partial anonymity common to even the best of big-band sidemen. He was with Count Basie for a while, and has been an Ellington and Nat Hentoff have long sought to educate the public about Terry, and many musicians have long made no secret of their knowledge that he is one of the best.
Of late, Terry has been devoting much attention to the fluegelhorn (a slightly larger, somewhat more mellow-sounding cousin to the trumpet), playing it in the same lean-cut, jaunty, brightly lyrical fashion in which he handles trumpet. Here he sticks to fluegelhorn through his first solo on Blues for Etta, in the last ensemble chorus of The Swinging Chemise, and all the way on A Sunday Kind of Love and on the blues called “127” (titled, incidentally, in honor of the 127th knockout scored by fighter Archie Moore).
DON BUTTERFILED has played tuba since high school days in Centralia, Washington. He is thoroughly experienced in both jazz and symphonic work, having played with the New York Philharmonic and both the NBC and CBS Symphony Orchestra (among others) on the one hand, and with such as Sonny Rollins, Bob Brookmeyer, Manny Albam and Sauter-Finegan (among many others) on the other.
Don’s comments on some of the tunes here seem of particular interest:
Top ‘n’ Bottom: At the finish of Clark’s opening cadenza the tuba picks up on the unison B flat with Clark and descends down through its register to produce one of the deepest pitches of which it is technically capable. The note is the pedal B flat, which is the last black note on the left side of the piano keyboard.”
“127”: “ … At one time during the session, Clark remarked to me that he thought I was trying to play too ‘pretty’ and that I should let loose and wail! I felt my solo here was the place for it. . .”
Mardi Gras Waltz: “The first time we played this I was unable to understand why Clark was including it in the album. After I became more familiar with it, I realized that, of all the music included in the album, it was becoming my special favorite. The nature of the tune suggested to me all the summer park concert-band performances I had played, during school days and after. I tried to make my solo a take-off on classic concert band literature: in it there is a phrase of the National Emblem March, a bit of the cornet solo from the Carnival in Venice and a complete phrase of Tubby the Tuba. The most fun was to experiment with after beats in a bass solo line, something that bass and tuba players ordinarily never get to do.”
JIMMY JONES is yet another musician most highly regarded by his colleagues, but little-known to the jazz public, largely because he spent many years in the steady but unspotlighted position of accompanist to Sarah Vaughan. This LP offered him a rare opportunity for blowing, and there are several fine examples here of Jimmy’s unusual melodic-yet-percussive solo-style. SAM JONES and ART TAYLOR, two of the soundest rhythm men around, have appeared on a number of Riverside albums. Both were working with Thelonious Monk at the time of this recording, and they can be heard together on “The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall” (STEREO RLP 12-300).
Terry’s previous Riverside albums are –
In Orbit: CLARK TERRY Quartet, featuring Thelonious Monk (RLP 12-271)
Duke with a Difference: CLARK TERRY, with Johnny Hodges, Pal Gonsalves (RLP 12-246)
Serenade to a Bus Seat: CLARK TERRY Quintet, with Johnny Griffin, Wynton Kelly (RLP 12-237)
He also appears on –
Brilliant Corners: THELONIOUS MONK; with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Clark Terry (RLP 12-226)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording – Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve)
Produced, and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover produced and designed by PAUL BACON – KEN BRAREN – HARRIS LEWINE
Back-liner photos by LAWRENCE SHUSTAK
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios)
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.