I appreciate the members of the jazz public who voted for me to be inducted into the Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame at Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC). What an honor! And I was so glad to learn that my cronies Hamp (Lionel Hampton) and Bohania (Art Blakey) are going to be inducted, too. I don’t have all of the details yet, but I was told that the ceremony is going to be in June. When you get to be a 92-year-old fart like me, things like this definitely add some wind in your sails! And your E-flats, too. You’d better believe that I said a prayer of thanks to Big Prez (my nickname for God).
Man, I’m so grateful to all of my friends at JALC – Wynton Marsalis and Seton Hawkins and everyone there. I’m proud of the fantastic work that they’re doing to perpetuate our music, and for organizing Nesuhi’s Jazz Hall of Fame.
One of the first people that I had the pleasure of meeting in New York City was Nesuhi. As a matter of fact, I did some of my first recordings for his company. I enjoyed working with him. He was a highly respected man in the industry. A real good cat. So, it’s an honor to receive an award in his name.
Being honored means a lot to me, especially since I spend most of my time in bed. My back hurts after I sit up for a few hours. But I do the best that I can to get up everyday for as long as I’m able, especially when friends like Annie come to visit.
She’s the daughter of my old friend, Jim Maxwell. He and I were section mates in the Tonight Show Band back in the 60’s. Great trumpet player. Really good buddy. I mentioned him and Annie in my autobiography. When she was a little girl, I told her that she was going to be a dancer one day. And that’s exactly what she did! Now she heads up the dance program at Piedmont Virginia Community College. I’m glad that she’s teaching; helping young dancers.
You know how I feel about teaching. It’s the greatest joy of my life. If I’m having a difficult day, I teach my students from my bed. They’re cool with that. And on a good day, I teach from my wheelchair. Talking about beautiful! Man, I love to spend time with eager young musicians, answering their questions and sharing some techniques.
My friend Mike Vax set things up for some students to come here from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. They wanted to learn more about improvisation. It was a gas! I ran some heavy riffs by them, and they didn’t stop until they pretty much nailed everything! They’re coming again next week.
Talking about promising young folks, my granddaughter Legacy Paris was honored in Little Rock at the State Senate for her campaign against bullying last month. And the Pine Bluff City Council recognized her efforts last year. While she was visiting here from Ft. Worth, we swapped stories about the horrors of being harassed at school. I went through that scene of being bullied back when I was a boy, and I mentioned it in my book.
Too many of our young folks are struggling with that bullying crap! There ought to a law against it. It’s a terrible thing to be bullied by classmates. Some of our young folks are committing suicide because of it. Terrible, just terrible! Legacy told me that thousands of kids stay out of school everyday to avoid being bullied. My hat is off to everyone who’s working to put a stop to it, and I’m praying that Big Prez will bless all efforts with success. You can read the article about Legacy by clicking here.
I’m also praying for some peace in this world. Praying for the victims and their families from that bombing at the Boston Marathon. Praying for our injured troops, and for the families who have lost their loved ones. Praying like the lyrics of Maestro’s (Duke Ellington) tune Come Sunday, ”Lord, dear Lord above, God almighty, God of love, please look down and see my people through.”
More of our friends have gone on to glory since my last blog. My dear friend D.B. (Donald Byrd) left some beautiful music for us to enjoy. He was such a talented cat, and Phil Ramone was a great producer. I did some gigs for Phil, and played quite a few times with D.B. It was a blessing to have them in our lives.
Joel Boykin, my friend in Alabama passed away a few weeks ago, and he donated his body for research. He was a real fun dude, and a big fan of jazz. He said that he hung out at so many of Maestro’s performances, until he was asked, “Are you in my band?”
Funny stories like that make life easier, and so do friends who lend a hand when the chips are down. So, I want to thank all of you who are helping me to pay for the 24-hour care that I need. Without you, and the grace of Big Prez, I’d be forced to go to a nursing home, where I wouldn’t be able to keep teaching young musicians.
I’m very proud of Lakecia, and all of the young lions that I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Crystal Torres is still making great strides in Beyonce’s band; Josh Shpak is still winning awards; Ryan Kisor laid down some great tracks and is blowing up a blue streak; Justin Kauflin is heading to the top in Q’s (Quincy Jones) Global Gumbo Tour. There are thousands of young musicians who have told me that my sessions with them have helped their careers. I feel so blessed.
That’s what gives me the courage to deal with waves of “Phantom Pain” where my legs were amputated. From what I understand, my brain sends pain signals to areas where it thinks that my body has a problem, like missing limbs. So my amputation sites hurt like hell sometimes. It’s weird to feel foot pains when I have no feet, but I ditched my pain pills because I didn’t want to get hooked.
The good thing is that I’ve learned to distract my brain from sending those pain signals by concentrating on something else like teaching, exercising or conversation. So, I try to keep a busy mind because it chases that pain away. Like the saying goes, “A poor mouse only has one hole.” That’s why I always look for ways to deal with problems, instead of getting bogged down.
Lots of our musicians have problems and can’t work, like me. You have helped to axe those problems by supporting the Jazz Foundation of America. Their fundraiser – The 12th Annual Great Night in Harlem – is on May 17th. Your donations have helped thousands of our musicians who were facing some financial difficulties. Eviction, hunger, health issues, homelessness, and a bunch of other horrors. Hard times can hit anybody, even you. It would be beautiful if you’d like to keep the flame of hope burning. You can make a donation to help our musicians by clicking here. I’ve nicknamed JFA, Our Angels on Earth!
I wish I could be at the Jazz at Lincoln Center ceremony when they induct me into the Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame, but my “crickety” old bones are telling me, “No!” I just can’t travel until I can sit up for longer than a few hours a day. I felt better about my limitations when Gwen read me a quote from Wynton regarding my award.
“Clark Terry is a phenomenal musician, a trumpeter without equal: self-taught, purely original technique. He has inspired so many trumpet players, from Miles Davis to Ryan Kisor. A master of trick trumpet techniques, playing trumpet with the left hand, playing two trumpets at once. Clark played in Count Basie’s band and Duke Ellington’s orchestra and created a unique style. He could play all the plunger mutes in an original fashion, and he was a scat singer without equal. With wit and humor, he was instrumental in keeping the music going in the down period of the 1970’s and 1980’s, forming a big band and traveling up and down the country inspiring young musicians who wanted to play during that time. He always took his time to talk, teach, and give musicians inspiration.”
That brought tears to my eyes. Thanks, Wynton. That was beautiful, man. It means a lot to be appreciated, especially at this time in my life. I hope you’ll all enjoy the ceremony, and even though I can’t be there in person, I’ll there with you in my heart.
So, to all of my beautiful friends everywhere, I hope you’re enjoying each day. Good days or bad days, as long as we have days, we are blessed. And I want you to know that I appreciate your phone calls, cards, letters, visits, and all of your posts on my website. Gwen reads everything to me, and it always lifts my spirits. Your love helps me to keep on keepin’ on! Absolutely.
I’d love to answer questions that weren’t discussed in my autobiography. Just post them below, or in my Guestbook, and I’ll do an audio answer for you in my next blog, like I did in my previous one.
Take care, and remember that I love you all!
(p.s. from Gwen: If you’d like to make a donation to Clark’s designated fund through JFA, please click here. We appreciate your kindness very much. Thank you for helping with Clark’s 24-hour-care expenses, so he can be at home to continue his greatest passion – teaching his students. May God bless you.)