Clark and I hope that 2011 will bring each of you much joy and prosperity. As we enter this new year, we pause to give tribute to some of Clark’s friends who have recently gone on before us – James Moody and Billy Taylor.
It was a very emotional time as I sat down with Clark to capture some of his comments about these two giants who were very close to him. I loved them, too. Below are some of the thoughts that Clark wanted to share with you:
James Moody has always been a special friend of mine, way back before the “Joe Carley Days.” Joe used to manage both of us. “Moots” and I played a lot of gigs and made a lot of records together, and we enjoyed playing together very much. We did one record with the Basie Group, not the regular Basie Band, but Basie associates. I’ll always remember that.
He was a great musician, and he was always doing something to make folks laugh.
There was a mountain near his home which he named, “Moody’s Mountain.” I remember being there with him and looking out at the beautiful landscape, and I’m thinking, “Now, he’s on the highest mountain!”
He called his sweet wife, “Honey.” I say, “Don’t worry, Honey, Moots will always be alive!”
Billy Taylor was a great friend of mine, and a master musician. I remember a record that we made back in ’57 in Chicago when Billy used all of the Ellington Band – minus Duke. It was a really nice album – “Taylor Made Jazz.” It was also the first time that I played the flugelhorn in a recording session. He really loved that sound just like I did.
He’s also the main one who got me involved in Jazz Education. I remember back in the 60’s when he was very busy with jazz clinics on college campuses. Billy came to me and said, “Clark, why don’t you come out to Cleveland with me and do a clinic.” Now, I had done a few things in some of the New York elementary and high schools while I was with The Tonight Show. Some of the cats from the show band and I went together to visit a few schools, but I had never done a solo clinic, and definitely not on a college campus. So, I said, “No, man! I don’t know anything about that.” Then Billy said, “Just come along with me and things will be smooth. The kids will ask you questions and you just be honest.” I kept saying no and he kept insisting. So, I went on out there, and when I did the first clinic I loved the kids. It was a gas! I was hooked from that first time, and I’ve never looked back.
We’ll all miss Billy and his music, but his spirit will live forever, and so will his great impact on Jazz Education.
Clark and I want to thank all of you who posted happy birthday greetings to him on the 90th Birthday Blog. I wish you could have seen the joy his face as I read the more than 300 responses. I thought he was kidding when he said he wanted to answer each one. But as you can see, he was serious.
Blessings to everyone, and take care.
Clark and Gwen