Jazz CD Reviews
Louie Bellson & Clark Terry – Louie & Clark Expedition 2 – Percussion Power
Published on April 14, 2008
(Louie Bellson, composer & drums; Clark Terry, trumpet & Flugelhorn; 17-piece big band; two guest drummers: Kenny Washington & Sylvia Cuenca)
Recorded just last year, this is a big band collaboration extraordinaire between two American jazz masters, both now in their 80s. Louie composed and Louie & Clark together perform, improvise, mentor and lead a 17-piece big band in a musical adventure akin to the historic 1803 journey by Lewis & Clark. Two hundred years ago they started from St. Louis and mapped out the Western territories. Clark Terry was born in St. Louis and he and Bellson explore the frontiers of big band jazz in this delightful CD. Bellson’s lengthy career has included stints with the bands of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Harry James and Count Basie, as well as the Jazz at the Philharmonic tours.
Bellson had the assistance of four top arrangers, include Tommy Newsom and Nat Pierce. The CD opens with one of his salutes to American cities – the four-movement Chicago Suite. There is also a showoff number with the two guest drummers joining Bellson at the three sets of traps – Two Guys and a Gal. Terry isn’t heard on the Chicago Suite, but comes in swinging on Bix’s Davenport Blues, joined by tenor man Steve Guerra, who later has a lyrical solo on Bellson’s Ballade. The excellent trumpet soloist on the Chicago Suite is Stjepko Gut. The booklet notes are by Nat Hentoff, and he speaks of how the album gave him “a sense of celebration of the human spirit that keeps regenerating itself, even when the world is in one of its fiercely turbulent stages.” This is the best recent big band album that has crossed my desk.
State Street Swing, City of Seasons, The Blues Singer, Lake Shore Drive, Davenport Blues, Two Guys and a Gal, Piacere, Give Me the Good Time, Ballade, Terry’s Mood, Back to the Basics (Old), Now (The Young), Well Alright Then.
– John Henry