Jazz legend Clark Terry was in hospital during his 94th birthday, so musicians brought the party to him.
On Dec. 16, two tour buses full of musicians drove four hours from Fayetteville, Ark. to Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. to visit Terry – on their scheduled day off.
New Orleans jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis was among the group of travelling well-wishers. He shared details of the surprise visit to Terry’s bedside in a Facebook post.
“At 14-15, he was the first great jazz trumpeter I had ever heard actually playing live. His spectacular playing made me want to practice (of course) but his warmth and optimism made me want to be a part of the world of Jazz,” he wrote.
Marsalis was joined by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and French-American jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant. Staff watched “in amazement” as the caravan of musicians filled the once-empty hospital classroom with bright layers of sound.
“We didn’t want to stop, but it was time for all of us to go. But before that somber moment, we gathered around the bed and played ‘Happy Birthday’ for him. When he went to blow out the candles, he broke down,” Marsalis said.
“Many of us joined him.”
Over a career spanning seven decades, there are more than nine hundred recordings to Terry’s name, according to his website.
On top of playing with jazz greats including Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, and Ray Charles, he was also awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
Terry is the subject of the critically-acclaimed documentary “Keep On Keepin’ On” which follows the jazz legend as he mentors 23-year-old blind piano prodigy Justin Kauflin over a five-year period.
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