JJ 10/71: Clark Terry At Ronnie Scott’s

Fifty years ago Barry McRae reckoned Clark Terry a brilliant brass player who transmuted the tritest melodic ore into pure gold. First published in Jazz Journal October 1971


I have always found Ronnie Scott’s the most convivial surroundings in which to enjoy jazz. Even on the rare occasions that a mediocre artist appears, he seems to grow in stature by being installed in the Frith Street club.

When the feature attraction is someone like Clark Terry, the audience have the best of both worlds. During August, this brilliant horn man reaffirmed that he need tip his hat to nobody, with an all-round display of trumpet and flugelhorn work of the highest possible order.

For a Terry worshipper like myself, it might be claimed that he did not play enough on trumpet. His tone and execution on that instru­ment are so good that I become resentful when he reaches for the alternative. This stupid carping only reflects personal prejudice, how­ever, and Terry is such a brilliant brass player that he transmutes the tritest melodic ore into pure gold, on whatever instrument he chooses. In addition he is a blues shouter of considerable stature and a humorous mumbler who has retained the ability to read the degree of audience enjoyment.

His programme was varied and he showed a control of dynamics that was really impressive. No other trumpeter exhibits equal facility with both tongue and valves and his articulation has a clarity that must be frightening to other players.

Unfortunately the rhythm sections used by him and singer Karin Krog would have been better had they switched. Terry’s offered him little tangible help, although this could be explained by the absence of bassist Lennie Bush on the night I caught them. It speaks volumes for the American that he rose above the kind of bored professionalism one associated with British teams of fifteen years ago. The singer, on the other hand, enjoyed the more animated sounds of John Taylor, Chris Lawrence and John Marshall.

Miss Krog herself looked very good but fav­oured the kind of matt-finish singing that made the Kenton girls of the fifties so dull. For me the best attraction of the evening, after Terry, was the unnamed bearded comedian who chose as his subject the beauty and character of the town of Gateshead. I took him to be the proprietor’s father.