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Full Speed Ahead!

Due to a very bad cold, I haven’t been able to visit Clark at the hospital. We miss seeing each other very much, as you can imagine, but we’re happy to communicate by phone. Even though it’s hard for Clark to hear me on the small handset in his room, we still talk several times a day. His health aides, our family and friends report back to me daily about what’s going on, so I can still keep a close eye on everything.

With a team of dedicated doctors, God’s grace, and your encouragement, Clark is fighting his way through every health challenge that has been thrown in his path. It is truly amazing to witness his incredible courage. During the weekdays, his physical therapists have been assisting him with exercise routines in his hospital room. His leg is healing, although it’s a slower process than usual due to the complications of diabetes. In spite of a series of recent obstacles, Clark quoted Admiral David Farragut, “‘Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!’”

Some of his beloved students came to celebrate his 91st birthday – Justin Kauflin, Alan Hicks, Quincy Cavers, and Cameron “Cinnamon” MacManus. They brought some of their friends with them – Ryan Hicks, Adam Hart, and Rory Anderson. Justin’s seeing-eye-dog Candy was right there in the mix, too, along with Clark’s health aides, nurses, doctors, and our family. Justin (piano), Alan (drums), Cinnamon (trombone) and Quincy (saxophone) serenaded Clark with some of his original tunes and other favorites. He made sure that the tempos were right by tapping his fingers on the bed rails. It was a great time for all with a birthday cake, flowers, balloons and the music that we all love – jazz.

Clark was so happy when I read your hundreds of heartfelt prayers and loving messages that were posted on his site. Please keep them coming because he so enjoys hearing from you.

There were many wonderful activities around the world which added to the birthday smiles on his face – radio tributes; concerts dedicated to him; news articles in magazines, newspapers and blogs; original compositions created for him; and more book reviews with favorable comments about his new autobiography. Tuba player Marc Lindy organized the unofficial re-naming of a main thoroughfare in Vancouver, Canada. Alan Matheson joined Marc as friends and fellow musicians gathered around “Clark Terry Drive” which was complete with a flugel horn on the sign! (Special thanks to W.D. Worden for use of his photo)

When I asked Clark how he felt about all of the birthday accolades and prayers, he said, “Blessed. I feel very, very blessed. I appreciate all of those beautiful vibes, and I love everybody. Every one of them.

“I’m thanking Big Prez for letting me see another birthday and Christmas. I’m praying hard and doing everything I can do to be able to celebrate the New Year.”

We hope that this holiday season continues to be filled with love and peace for everyone. It is our prayer that you are enjoying these special days with your family and friends, and that you are feeling our spirit with you as you gather together. We can certainly feel your presence with all of the love that you’re sending our way. Thank you so much!

Blessings and Happy New Year,
Gwen

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Tribute to Bob Brookmeyer

Clark was very, very saddened when he heard that Bob had passed away. After he gained his composure, he said, “We had a very special friendship. We knew that we loved each other.”

He wasn’t able to say much more. So, I’ll refer to his autobiography where he wrote several passages about Bob. Here’s an excerpt that begins on page 177: “Bob Brookmeyer and I had a ‘mutual admiration society,’ loved playing together, so much so that we got a little group together in the early ‘60’s. We named it the Clark Terry/Bob Brookmeyer Quintet and got a nice gig going at the Half Note – Eddie Costa on piano, Osie Johnson on drums, and Joe Benjamin on bass. It was one of the best groups ever.

The harmony that Bob and I had was super. I was digging the valve trombone that Bob played because that was the first instrument I was given in high school, but the way its sound married with my flugelhorn sound was something special. We could feel each other’s next moves and enjoyed the way we managed to play simultaneously throughout the changes. We called it ‘noodling.’ Usually one player wants to outshine the other, but we had a way of blending together that allowed both of us to shine. We really tried to make each other sound beautiful.”

Clark told a funny story in his book about how Bob helped him to overcome an ulcer. He talked about many other things, including their recordings and the awards they won. There’s also a mention of a clip where Clark and Bob are playing together on a British television show, Jazz 625, in February of 1965. Click here to see the clip.

When Bob was conducting the Big Band of the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival in Germany in 1995, he introduced his special guest by saying, “My dear friend, a fantastic musician, a wonderful man, and everything that you could want for a partner – Clark Terry.” You can see a clip of this performance by clicking here.

Rest in peace, dear Bob. Your music will be celebrated forever.

Let us all pray for Bob’s family, especially for his wife, Jan.

Blessings and love,
Gwen

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Thank You For So Many Blessings!

It was quite a tearful experience for both of us, as I shared the hundreds of prayers and encouraging messages that were posted from Clark’s students, friends, fans, fellow musicians, and family around the world. He said, “Please tell everybody that I love them very, very much. I can’t thank them enough for all of those beautiful words.”

He is more determined than ever to “keep on keepin’ on.” With God’s grace and your powerful faith, I’m so glad to let you know that he’s been transferred from the Intensive Care Unit into a private room. With such an outpouring of love from you, he has a healthy appetite for solid foods and is getting stronger daily.

His doctors are keeping a close eye on him, and they haven’t documented any new complications since his right leg was amputated mid-thigh last Wednesday. His primary care physician, Dr. Simmie Armstrong, reported, “We still have a long road ahead, but he’s a tough trooper. We can all learn a lot from him.”

Clark said, “When I face adversity, I lace up my bootstraps and wade on through. And everyday I’m grateful to Big Prez (his nickname for God).” As we look forward to his 91st birthday on December 14th, I asked him what he’d want if he could have his heart’s desire, and he answered, “Another birthday.”

You have made him so happy, and we are extremely appreciative.

Please continue to keep him on your prayer list.

Blessings and love,
Gwen

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Please Pray With Strong Faith

After many serious health challenges recently, Dr. Simmie Armstrong said, “Clark, we saved your finger two years ago, and this time we tried our best to save your leg. I’m so sorry that things didn’t work in our favor again.”

When Clark talked with me about the decision that he was facing, he said, “Don’t worry. Just because you lose your leg, it doesn’t mean you’ll lose your life.” He is a phenomenal fighter in the truest sense. I asked him if he’d developed his strong survival instinct from learning how to box when he was a young boy. He responded with, “Yes, you could say that.” He talked about the thrill of victory in the boxing ring and how it gave him courage to face many obstacles in his life.

We discussed one of his favorite Duke Ellington principles – “There are two rules in life: Rule #1 is – don’t quit. Rule #2 is – don’t forget rule #1.”

Clark said, “I believe that you can’t afford to quit. You have to keep on keepin’ on.” So, on Wednesday morning, after spending time with family and friends, vascular surgeon Heather LeBlanc amputated Clark’s right leg. That afternoon, she said, “The surgery went well. We’re going to put him in the intensive care unit for twenty-four hours to keep a close watch, considering his age and health status.”

I’ll do my best to keep you all informed. In the meantime, please pray with strong faith that God will heal Clark.

Blessings and love,
Gwen

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Please Continue Your Uplifting Prayers and Messages

We all know how much Clark treasures his students. He wrote in his book (page 2), “… helping young musicians to make their dreams come true. That became my supreme joy and my greatest aspiration.”

So, you can imagine how happy he was when I told him that one of his youngest students, trumpeter Josh Shpak, won a national audition in the YoungArts competition. He was selected for the jazz performance category of seventeen and eighteen year-olds from a pool of more than seven thousand applicants in various genres. Sponsored by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA) in their thirty-first year, Josh (currently a freshman at Berklee) will attend master classes and perform with a small ensemble at a gala in Miami this January, hosted by Robert Redford.

Clark said, “I’m so proud of Josh! I love all of my students, and I’m grateful to have participated in their development.” Last month, Josh visited Clark at the hospital and played some stunning solos on his trumpet. He said, “I cannot even describe the importance of what Clark has shown me, things that have made him such an amazing and beautiful musician. My only hope is that I will be able to take even a fraction of what I have learned and apply it to my playing.”

Adding to the many things that have kept Clark’s spirit lifted, members of his beloved quintet flew in recently to share their love with him. Drummer Sylvia Cuenca, pianist Helen Sung, and bassist Marcus McLaurine had been trying since this past summer to coordinate their schedules so that they could arrive at the same time. Clark had the biggest smile on his face and he kept saying, “I just can’t believe you’re all here!”

It was quite an emotional reunion, complete with an incredible solo that Marcus played at Clark’s bedside, accompanied by Sylvia and Helen with hand-held percussion instruments.

Marcus said, “I consider Clark to be my musical father, and I will always be grateful for everything that he has given me.” Sylvia added, “I’m so glad that we could work things out to see Cee Tee. I’ve learned so much from him, and he means a whole lot to me.” Helen replied, “I can’t even begin to explain how special Clark is to me. All I can say is that we love him very, very much, and we’re all praying that he gets well.”

During their visit, the three quintet members gave a swinging, surprise performance for a celebration of Clark’s autobiography at Garbo Hearne’s Fine Art Gallery in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Everyone wished that Clark could have been there, but we honored his request to represent him. There was standing room only at the event, including a guest appearance by Michael Chukes, whose magical art and sculpture exhibit had been unveiled at the gallery recently. During an emotional statement, he said, “Clark has always been a huge inspiration for me. When I work, I listen to his music.”

Just days before the arrival of his quintet members, Clark was serenaded by his cousin, Zela Terry, with an awesome solo. She plays principal cello in France for the Nice Symphony Orchestra. Her sister Teri Terry-Renty came from California to sing some soul-stirring spirituals for him, and her son Elisha accompanied them with brushes on a snare drum. Clark said, “This is such a gas! All I can say is, thank God.”

When they asked how he’s been feeling, he answered, “I’m doing all that I can do to hold on, and it sure helps to have all of this amazing music and love.”

We thank all of you who have posted your heartfelt well wishes and prayers on his website, and we appreciate the writers who have published such positive book reviews for his autobiography. His personal message is, “I’m very grateful to everyone who did those nice things for me.”

He hasn’t been able to continue his physical therapy as we all had hoped, but he has gained a few pounds since being upgraded to solid foods, including some of his favorites like garlic chicken legs. Dr. Simmie Armstrong said, “Although Clark has overcome many serious health challenges, new obstacles have prevented his release from the hospital.”

As we approach his 91st birthday, please continue your uplifting prayers and messages.

Blessings and love to all,
Gwen

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