Clark Terry: Color Changes

The brass maestro's French-flavoured 1960 NY date featured Jimmy Knepper, Yusef Lateef, Tommy Flanagan and Ed Shaughnessy


Clark Terry was always the musician for all seasons, once holding down a staff job in New York at NBC while seemingly able to adapt to any musical style and occasion. This 1960 recording found him in the company of seven musicians – eight if pianist Budd Johnson is included on one track – and, as Nat Hentoff described it, exerting complete control.

Terry’s choice of musicians, orchestrations, and studio protocols enabled him to indulge his Francophilia. He loved Paris. Bob Wilber’s opening Blue Waltz is translated in parenthesis as La Valse Bleue, and there are two other Gallic charts as well as another France-related one.

Eight musicians, including Yusef Lateef and Seldon Powell doubling tenor sax/ flute and Julius Watkins on French horn – with Lateef also in reach of oboe and cor anglais – could have been either hindrance or help when the arrangements were being set up. But where they are concentrated they exhibit the colour changes of the album’s title, and where more flexible offer a standing resource, as in the riffs which urge the soloists on in Duke Jordan’s No Problem. That chart, arranged by Al Cohn, was the theme for the film Les Liaisons Dangereuses and its statement is one of the best examples on the album of Terry’s purity of tone.

His Brownie-like dexterity was a given, as on Blue Waltz (a blues and a waltz), but it was lyrical too. So are the other musicians, maybe urged to lyricism by tuneful charts. Not even complexity could bury it on Flutin’ And Fluglin’, a Terry original arranged by Lateef and including a double-flute theme statement on which Terry improvises. It also sports an exchange between trombonist Jimmy Knepper and Watkins followed by some typical Terry flamboyance in which he switches back and forth from trumpet to flugelhorn.

The album title says “…featuring Yusef Lateef”, maybe because he plays four instruments. But it also features everyone else, not least the immaculate Tommy Flanagan on piano and the creatively industrious bassist Joe Benjamin and drummer Ed Shaughnessy. Studio jazz recordings don’t come more dapper.

(1) Blue Waltz; Brother Terry; Flutin’ And Fluglin’; No Problem; La Rive Gauche; (2) Nahstye Blues; (1) Chat Qui Pèche (39.68)
(1) Terry (t, flh); Jimmy Knepper (tb); Julius Watkins (frh); Seldon Powell (ts, f); Yusef Lateef (ts, f, engh, o); Tommy Flanagan (p); Joe Benjamin (b); Ed Shaughnessy (d). New York, 19 November 1960. (2) Flanagan out, Budd Johnson in.
Candid CCD 30092