Clark Terry | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Clark Terry 

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If you plan a concert built on the original arrangements of Duke Ellington, you could do worse than hiring someone who played them the first time around. If you hire Clark Terry--who sparked the Ellington trumpet section throughout the 1950s--you can't do much better. Terry helped modernize that unit; his style in fact straddled swing and bebop, making him the perfect mid-50s sideman for Duke (who eschewed labels and prided himself on recognizing "only two kinds of music--good and bad"). As with Dizzy Gillespie and pianist Dorothy Donegan, the affable Terry's onstage antics have occasionally seemed to overshadow his towering musicianship (for testimony, ask anyone who watched his semiverbal scat work crack up The Tonight Show orchestra and crew when he played that program in the 60s). But keep in mind the fact that Terry, a native of Saint Louis, served as model and mentor for his serious-minded young neighbor Miles Davis; listen carefully to the crisp complexity of his sunny improvised lines and you start to understand why Ellington kept him around. At this concert, which takes place the day before the anniversary of Ellington's death, Terry leads a 16-piece, handpicked band of Chicagoans in a program made up largely of authentic Ellington scores and transcriptions; it's a benefit for the Chicago Jazz Archive, a joint project of the University of Chicago and the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Sunday, 7 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 702-8068.

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