top of page

Serenade to a Bus Seat: CLARK TERRY QUINTET

RLP-117 118 A
RLP-201R front.jpg
Serenade to a Bus Seat: CLARK TERRY QUINTET
RLP-117 118 A.jpg
RLP-117 118 B.jpg

Clark Terry (tp) Johnny Griffin (ts) Wynton Kelly (p) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)

New York; April, 1957


1. Donna Lee (4:02) (Charlie Parker/ arr. Clark Terry)

2. Boardwalk (6:59) (Clark Terry)

3. Boomerang (5:58) (Terry)

4. Digits (4:05) (Terry)


1. Serenade to a Bus Seat (4:36) (Terry)

2. Stardust (5:12) (Hoagy Carmichael)

3. Cruising (8:26) (Terry)

4. That Old Black Magic (2:00) (Harold Arlen)

   This album celebrates the “discovery” of a superior talent that has been around for the finding for several years. CLARK TERRY has been able to hold his own with the top men on trumpet for nearly a decade, yet even moderately well-informed followers of jazz could be forgiven for not being overly familiar with his work. In such cases of buried talent (and there are more than a few on the current scene) it is easy enough to say smugly that it’s the public’s loss: Clark’s horn has a lot to say, and those who have missed it up to now have been kept from a rare jazz experience. But such things work both ways: by not reaching the jazz public directly and often, a musician is being deprived of an essential outlet and important satisfactions.

   Terry has scarcely been hiding in obscure places. His particular dilemma is indicated by the album title: Serenade to a Bus Seat. Clark suggests, with an ironic smile, that this is “the story of my life,” for the bus referred to is the kind that big bands use on the road. The St. Louis-born trumpeter started with Lionel Hampton, after being discharged from the Navy in 1945; since then his major jobs have been long stints with Count Basie (1948-51) and Duke Ellington (form 1951 to date). Like a good many others faced with the tricky task of both functioning as a jazz musician and supporting a family (his wife, Pauline, and their two sons), Terry has chosen the comparative stability of the successful big band. And while his work with the Duke has brought him to the attention of many, it gas also had to mean fairly limited solo opportunities and general subordination of his personal style and ideas to the quite specific requirements of the Ellington sound. Clark has of course appeared on a number of non-Ellington records, but this LP represents one of the very few occasions when the spotlight has been turned squarely on him.

   The manner in which Clark Terry and Riverside came together demonstrates that “buried” jazz talent can come to light in odd ways. We had known, in a general way, something of his efforts with Ellington, had known that critic Leonard Feather has called him “one of the most original trumpet players in contemporary jazz” and that Nat Hentoff considers him one of the most unfairly under rated of current musicians, but it took coincidence to shake us into action. A jazz-magazine editor had suggested that we do a Clark Terry album. At precisely that time, we were in the midst of cutting Thelonious Monk LP. One sideman unexpectedly left town on a long road trip, Terry happened to be in town, and Monk unhesitatingly picked him to fill the gap. That meant a lot all by itself: Monk’s approval, never loosely given, has always counted for a great deal around this label. The clincher came in hearing Clark at the session (the competition of RLP12-226: Brilliant Corners.)

   The present album seems to us to substantiate fully the enthusiasm Terry sparked at that Monk date and to more than justify the critics’ praise. It is an unusually relaxed, cohesive, and happy-sounding LP, not only because the overall level of musicianship is about as high as you can get, but probably also because a good deal of enthusiasm was involved – a quality that doesn’t always seem to be on tap in these days of very frequent (and sometimes casually flung-together) recording activity. JOHNYY GRIFFIN, for example, is on hand because Clark, hearing him when the Ellington band was in Johnny’s home town of Chicago early in 1957, wrote back that he had to have Griffin on his album. Through good timing (Griffin came to New York to join Art Blakey’s group) and the courtesy of Blue Note , for whom Johnny currently records, it was possible to use this sensational young tenor man. The rhythm section includes PAUL CHAMBERS and PHILLY JOE JONES, tow of the very best in the East, who at the time had been working together for over a year (which always helps) in Miles Davis’ quintet; and WYNTON KELLY, presently with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band, a pianist whom fellow musicians, thought not nearly enough of the public, recognize as a formidable performer.

   The emphasis here is on swinging medium-to-up tempos, a grove into which Clark and Johnny fitted together immediately. Both men have the rare ability to handle swift passages with unrushed ease (as a prime example, listen to Donna Lee). Emphasis is also on Terry as a writer. He contributes five fresh and unpretentious originals; and he also demonstrates his ability to get away from standardized routing of tunes (note, for example, the passages in both Digits and the blues called Boardwalk in which the two horns ‘answer’ each other most effectively). The two standards have their own special touches, too; the inclusion of the beautiful, neglected verse of Stardust; and the Latin treatment of Old Black Magic (which cowbell by Terry and claves by Griffin).

   Above all, there is the consistently warm, clean, brilliant tone of Clark’s horn, and the play of his fertile jazz imagination. There is also evidence that be belongs to that solid core of current jazzmen who are able to incorporate and transform to their own uses material that is not strictly and narrowly “modern.” There is fundamental gutbucked in Broadwalk; and there’s also the fact that although Terry at least particularly “inherited” half-valve effects from his predecessor with Ellington, Rex Stewart, he has adapted them in ways that are uniquely his.

   On this LP, Clark Terry comes into his own. It does not seem exaggeration to say that a few more like this will establish him, as a truly major jazz figure.

   Clark Terry can also be heard on –

Brilliant Corners: THELONIOUS MONK, with Sonny Rollins, Ernie Henry, Max Roach (RLP12-226)

   Other outstanding modern jazz on HIGH FIDELITY 12-inch Riverside LPs includes –

SONNY ROLLINS: The Sound of Sonny (RLP12-241)

KENNY DORHAM: Jazz Contrasts; with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach (RLP12-239)

Thelonious Himself: solo piano by THELONIOUS MONK (RLP12-235)

Monk’s Music: THELONIOUS MONK Septet, with Coleman Hawkins, Gigi Gryce, Art Blakey (RLP12-242)

The Hawk Flies High: COLEMAN HAWKINS, with J. J. Johnson, Idrees Sulieman (RLP12-233)

GIGI GRYCE and the Jazz Lab Quintet; with Donald Byrd (RLP12-229)

Zoot!: The ZOOT SIMS Quintet (RLP12-228)

HERBIE MANN: Sultry Serenade (RLP12-234)

Jazz a la Bohemia: RANDY WESTON Trio and Cecil Payne (RLP12-232)

This Is New: KENNY DRWE, with Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley (RLP12-236)

A Grand Night for Swinging: MUNDELL LOWE, with Billy Taylor, Gene Quill (RLP12-238)

BOBBY JASPAR: tenor and flute, with George Wallington, Idrees Sulieman (RLP12-240)


A HIG FIDELITY recording – Riverside-Reeves SPECTRONSONIC High Fidelity Engineering

(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve)

Produced, and notes written by, Orrin Keepnews

Cover by Paul Weller (photograph) and Paul Bacon (design)

Engineer: jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studios)


553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.

bottom of page