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Clark Terry/Max Roach: Friendship

Considering their long parallel careers, there have been few studio encounters between Clark Terry and Max Roach. They were together on “Bemsha Swing” on Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners Riverside sessions and on Emarcy’s Dinah Jams, both in the 1950s. They were fellow sidemen on Charles Mingus, Randy Weston and Duke Ellington recordings in the early ’60s. Now in a new century, the octogenarian trumpeter and flugelhornist and the slightly younger drummer have collaborated on a charming collection that shows their mastery, compatibility and freshness. The settings range from unaccompanied solos to quartet performances with pianist Don Friedman and bassist Marcus McLaurine, regulars in Terry’s group.

Terry is undiminished in his passion and his ability to find the best harmonic possibilities in a piece of music. His bluesy sound and precise articulation identify him from his first notes on the opening “Statements,” a duet with Roach. Roach’s touch and percussion vocabulary make him also immediately identifiable, but there’s an intriguing new element: He seasons his solo work throughout the CD with mysterious bent tones that sound like Doppler-effect frequency shifts. His solo piece “Lil Max” is laced with these unearthly, often humorous, strokes. He and Terry tackle the pyrotechnic “The Profit” with the zeal of 25-year-olds. Terry performs his unaccompanied flugelhorn solos on “When I Fall in Love” and “The Nearness of You” with ardor so heartfelt that a couple of uncharacteristic lip fluffs don’t matter. They merely reveal that he’s human, after all.

In just one chorus of “I Remember Clifford” and a stunning coda, Terry suggests, but does not imitate, Clifford Brown. Roach sits out the tribute to his brilliant partner, but he must have been moved by its emotion.

Originally Published