My 92nd birthday is on the 14th of December! You’d better believe that I’m thanking Big Prez (Clark’s nickname for God) for that blessing, and I’m praying to enjoy all of the “goodies” that are in store for me.
Talking about being grateful. Man. I appreciate all the love from everybody who inspired me to “Keep On Keepin’ On!” And you know what? When you get to be an old fart like me, that’s the most important thing. Love. Pure and simple. That’s what keeps me going.
To me, there are lots of different types of love. Big Prez is love. Jazz is love. Phone calls, family, cards, letters. My students and friends and fans. The list is long. And it’s something that I definitely don’t take for granted.
The surprises that are in the works for me, that’s love. Now, I don’t know which ones, but a “little birdie” told me that some of my students are coming here to play for me on my birthday. I can’t wait! When I hear how they have progressed, it just fills me to the brim. Totally.
Quincy Jones was my first student, back in the late ‘40’s, and look at him now. Man! I’m so proud of him. He just signed one of my students for a world tour – Justin Kauflin. Now, that’s what I’m talking about! Helping young musicians up the ladder. Believe me, mentoring is what we all need to concentrate on. (See Justin play piano in a trailer of the upcoming documentary “Keep On Keepin’ On.”)
This is a picture of me hanging out with the cats. That’s Ethan (Heyenga) on sax, and Josh (Shpak) on trumpet. They’re some very talented young musicians who flew down from Berklee to study with me. And on piano, that’s my good friend, Alan (Matheson). A great musician. Plays a mean cornet, too! He came down from Canada to shoot the breeze with us. They jammed up a storm!
Teaching young cats is the way to go. When I think about some of my good friends – Billy Taylor, James Moody, Jimmy Heath and Frank Wess – and other cats like me who were on the jazz education scene from waaaay back, and then I hear some of these young lions out here perpetuating our music, it’s a good feeling. A really good feeling.
Cats like Dave Brubeck who started schools and things like that, they gave a lot of love, you know. A lot of love for a lot of students. Man, I miss Dave. He would have been 92 on the 6th. He was a real cool cat. Nice cat. Excellent musician, and I always enjoyed being around him. I liked the way that he took his music away from the norm. Made you think about it, appreciate it, and love it. “Take Five” was one of my favorite tunes of his. I can hear it now…
And that blurb he wrote, on the second page of my book, I really appreciated it:
“Clark and I have been friends for many decades, and I’ve always enjoyed his music. Recently, on a long, three-hundred-mile drive to our gig, we listened to Clark’s wonderful Porgy and Bess album. This was the second or third time that we’d done that. It sure was some great playing on your part, Clark! We enjoyed those Chicago Jazz Orchestra brass players, too. Congratulations on your book!”
Please click here for more on Dave.
So, as far as I’m concerned, Dave is right here with me, celebrating my birthday and his, along with a whole slew of our friends who are up there with Big Prez. And to all of my beautiful friends here who sent me cards, folks who called me and wrote letters, I want to thank you. All of your prayers, I can’t tell you how much it all means.
When my good friend Mickarl Thomas showed up here from Flint for a surprise birthday visit, man, I loved it! He brought his wife, Ann, with him. Beautiful people. Now, he’s a preacher, but when I tell you that he can tell some great jokes, you’d better believe it! He had me laughing hard. I love a good joke. He and his wife love to help the young folks at their church.
You know, it doesn’t matter what business our young people want to get into, they all need guidance. My neighbor, Monte (Coleman), was just named “Coach of the Year,” and his football team just won the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) Championship! He’s working with those Golden Lions at UAPB (University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). And his quarterback, Ben Anderson, surprised me with a birthday visit. This young man threw a 95-yard touchdown pass! He’s a real nice kid with a bright future ahead. He said that he plays the sax, and his father is a big jazz fan. You can read more about Ben and the championship game here.
I wonder what other birthday surprises are down the pike? I’ve been thinking about my birthday cake, and what it’s gonna look like. Now, I know that I’m diabetic, but I told Gwen that I just want to taste a small piece. If they put 92 candles on my cake, I guess I’ll have to do some circular-breathing to blow them out! I’ll be thinking about you, sending my love to each and every one of you. And for my wish, I’m hoping that you’ll keep helping our young folks to make their dreams come true!
Celebrating and happy,
(He is enjoying your comments below and in his Guestbook so, so much! God bless you all. Love, Gwen)