You may not be familiar with the name "Clark Terry," but we can pretty much guarantee that you've listened to one of his records before. The multi-instrument virtuoso — he plays the trumpet and was a pioneer of the fluegelhorn — has a jazz career spanning over seven decades, and has been cited as a powerful influence by the likes of Miles Davis and Quincy Jones. Widely noted as a brilliant soloist and known for his infectious sense of humor, he was also the first African American staff musician to appear on a public broadcast channel (NBC), and was the recipient of the 2010 Grammy's Lifetime Achievement award. To date, he remains a dedicated activist for youth jazz education, seeding organizations like Jazz Mobile in Harlem, and hosting his own jazz camps. All of which, in the end, is just a long way of saying: "He's had a helluva freakin' life." A fact that undoubtedly played a part in filmmakers Alan Hicks and Adam Hart decision to make a documentary about it, Keep On Keepin' On.
Alan first crossed paths with Clark when he moved to New York in 2001 to study music. It was a chance meeting that blossomed into a loving mentorship and friendship, and the two have remained tightly knit ever since. (A few notably moving moments in their project video show Clark referring to Alan as his son, then waxing exuberant about Alan's appearance at his 90th birthday, crowing "The best birthday I ever had, man!")
As an aid to the documentary, Clark provided Alan and Adam with a copy of his diary, dating from the year 1959. What the pages reveal is way more than a collection of recording sessions kept, parties attended, and lunch dates had. With names like "Q. Jones" and "Dinah Washington" sprinkled throughout, scrawled set lists from soon-to-be-legendary shows, and weekly blocks dedicated to "NBC," the diary is more like a living archive of jazz history. At my request, Alan was kind enough to share a selection of the pages with us. The story they tell is truly something else.
This is the second contact page from the 1959 Diary. Here are some of the stand out names — Quincy Jones, Gus Johnson, Thad and Hank Jones, Illinois Jacquet, Yesef Lateef... (That said, all the names are significant to that era.)
These are a couple of the most interesting days for me. 04/08/1963 — It seems to be busy in the morning, and there are some venue changes. The 5:15 - 9:15 slot is a regular gig Clark plays as a part of the Johnny Carson Tonight Show band. 04/09/1963 — Includes a recording session with Quincy Jones, recording a movie or commercial soundtrack, a Count Basie recording date at A&R Studios (which looks like he got paid on the night for). Now that's a crazy couple of days!
04/10/1963 — This day Clark is editing one of his own recordings, then continuing onto a Quincy Jones Session, before going to a concert at Webster Hall with Oliver Nelson. 04/11/19639 — Another Quincy Jones session, cancelled and rescheduled for later. Then Clark plays his regular spot in the Johnny Carson Tonight Show band. On the late night, Clark records with Freddie Hubbard and is paid (his wife would stamp his book with a "Paid" stamp for each session he was compensated for).
Clark goes to a benefit at Jackie Robinson's house for the N.A.A.C.P