Clark Terry: Live At The Wichita Jazz Festival

The Songs:

  1. Una Mas
  2. Nefertiti
  3. Take The “A” Train
  4. Randi
  5. Mumbles
  6. Sheba
  7. Cold Tater Stomp
  • Clark Terry – trumpet, flügelhorn, vocals
  • Jimmy Nottingham, Oscar Gamby, Richard Williams, Greg Bobulinski – trumpets
  • Sonny Costanza, Jack Jeffers, Janice Robinson, Jimmy Wilkins, Chuck Connors – trombones
  •  Phil Woods, Arnie Lawrence, Jimmy Heath, Ernie Wilkins, Charles Davis – saxophones
  • Duke Jordan – piano
  • Wilbur Little – bass
  • Ed Soph – drums

In the early 1970’s, Clark Terry, (a veteran of the Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Tonight Show Orchestras), formed his own “Big B-A-D Band” and performed and recorded with it throughout the decade. It featured the arrangements of saxophonist Ernie Wilkins and several all-star sidemen, as well as the remarkable talents of its leader. In 1974, he took his group to the Wichita Jazz Festival and recorded the set for release on the Vanguard Records label. (At the previous year’s Wichita Jazz Festival, vibraphonist Gary Burton let an 18-year-old guitarist from Missouri sit in with him and discovered the formidable skills of the young Pat Metheny.)

This recording is one of the best in Clark Terry’s big band output. In addition to the contributions of Ernie Wilkins, it featured arrangements and solos by legendary saxmen Phil Woods and Jimmy Heath, as well as trombonist Janice Robinson, pianist Duke Jordan, and veteran big band drummer Ed Soph. Although Terry’s playing and style were most rooted in swing and bebop, the set ventured into wider territory with Kenny Dorham’s hard-bop classic “Una Mas” and Wayne Shorter’s harmonically challenging “Nefertiti”. The two standout tracks include the Ellington/Strayhorn standard “Take the ‘A’ Train” and Clark Terry’s signature tune, “Mumbles”. This staple of his career developed during his days with the Tonight Show. Johnny Carson occasionally included a feature called “Stump The Band”. Whenever someone in the audience asked for a tune that the band hadn’t heard of, leader Doc Severinsen would bring down Clark Terry, who would proceed to do a vocal ad-lib with nonsense scat singing, but delivering it in an earnest, story-telling style. This popular bit turned into “Mumbles”. Terry recorded it frequently throughout his career and continues to perform it to this day. This recording is one of the best.

The “Big B-A-D Band” recorded a couple of other albums before disbanding, but its arrangements and legacy would continue in Terry’s numerous appearances with college and university jazz bands across the country. (Terry returned to Wichita in the 90’s to revisit some of these songs at the Friends University Jazz Festival.) Live At The Wichita Jazz Festival remains one of the standout recordings in Terry’s lengthy and ongoing career as one of the true legends in jazz. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Gene Lees. You Can’t Steal A Gift: Dizzy, Clark, Milt, and Nat.

Suggested Viewing:

Clark Terry Quintet/Big Band In Concert.