It is almost that time again, PMAC’s Annual Jazz Night at the Music Hall Loft! On March 13 & 14 we are celebrating Charlie “Bird” Parker, Dave Brubeck, and Clark “CT” Terry at 100. Featuring the faculty of PMAC’s Jazz Institute, each evening is unique. Attend one or both shows!

More Info & Tickets HERE

Continuing our Jazz Night blog series about each of the jazz legends: Bird, Brubeck & CT. Our second blog is from PMAC Teaching Artist, Chris Klaxton about his time spent with Clark Terry:

“Clark Terry means the world to me. As a young kid, my music teachers would truck us up to UNH from Plaistow, NH, to watch Clark Terry and affiliated jazz masters perform. At the age of 12/13, I had no idea what I was hearing or why it was cool…I just knew it was cool.

In high school, we continued to go to UNH to see Clark and watch him perform, but now I was old enough to join the college kids in CT’s masterclasses. At that time there were not too many “jazzers” at UNH, so at the tender age of 16 or so, I was getting some nice one-on-one time with THE master. I was  now a full fledged “jazz nerd” and was starting to understand the breadth of CT’s influence….but I still had no idea.
I wound up going to UNH to study trumpet, and managed to hang with CT damn near every semester. He would come to Durham and stay for a few days, performing with our jazz band, giving masterclasses and clinics, and holding court at a local restaurant till the wee hours of the morning. It was here at these “hangs” that I finally started to get to know the man. The STORIES, the jokes, the songs, the lyrics, the rhythms…a dinner with CT was a cornucopia of swing – even when the topic was not music. I grew to admire the man and look forward to his presence as a youngster, but as a young man, new to “THE HANG” with CT, I didn’t want to leave his side.

Over the next few years, my one-on-one time with CT increased, group lessons were abundant, including dear friends and monster musicians Nick Mainella (of the Soggy Po Boys), and trumpeter Chris Burbank (newly added to the roster of the famed Army Blues Jazz Band), and THE HANG kept getting better and better.

Near the end of my tenure at UNH, I was in the habit of driving to CT’s house in Haworth, NJ – for one summer, almost every weekend. I was soon invited to crash at CT’s for a full week and help him get around to some errands and appointments while his wife Gwen was out of town. That week went so smoothly and was so fun, that Clark asked me to join him in an official capacity as his Travel Valet. The term “travel valet” sounds like I was just a luggage boy, and luggage boy I was, but in being on the road with CT, I became his nurse administering medication, travel manager making sure all travel, accommodations, and financials were straight, and was occasionally introduced as his attorney (if we were in a sticky spot and needed attention or urgent action taken), or his grandson (and we’d get some skeptical glances due to our obvious differences in skin tone).

During these trips with CT, we became real friends. We learned to rely on one another, helped to keep each other’s mood up, talked endlessly about music and the history of music in America. We ate everything we could, drank more than enough, and laughed until we split our sides. Through these travels with CT, I met a host of my heroes, made countless new friends, and saw beautiful parts of the country and a little bit of the world. I learned a ton about music, but I learned even more about life, aging, American History, racism, diplomacy, decorum, manners, professionalism, family, friendship, and responsibility. When we returned home from a tour we were at times ready for a brief hiatus from one another, but a few hours after said hiatus, a good shower, and a clean pair of shorts, we were right back at it. More than once we were scolded for staying up too late, eating too much, and having one too many!

I could go on about CT forever. My time with him feels like a full lifetime, when it was in fact a total of just about 15 years. He left me, one person, with so much, I will never run out. And when I speak with the multitudes of CT’s friends, students, family, colleagues, and fans – they all say the same thing. “He gave us so much.”

I truly think of that man every day. We was a hero, a teacher, and I’m glad to say a good friend. He invited me in to his family and showed me love, supported me, and believed in me. He showed us all, every day, that it is the soul of a man that matters most. He is on record saying exactly that. I remember saying to CT once, something to the effect of, “Your musical life seems like it’s full of people as opposed to full of notes.” He replied with, “It’s all about other people. It’s not about the music. It’s about the people.” – Chris Klaxton







Check out our special Clark Terry Spotify Playlist curated by Chris Klaxton:

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