Drummer Louie Bellson and trumpeter Clark Terry bring out the big band sound of days gone by and let it shine brightly in their latest collaboration Louie & Clark Expedition 2. This is the music that spawned The Lawrence Welk TV shows and big band performances fronted by the likes of Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, and Mel Torme. It is music that regardless of race, creed or language, people understand and are galvanized to its melodic skits. Though big band swing sonnets have mostly been resigned to being played in casinos or in movies like the Ocean’s Eleven series, there is something about this music that draws in the young and the old to its stage, and Louie and Clark know how to work up a big band sound to bring out its best and brightest assets.
The first four tunes form The Chicago Suite with "State Street Swing" heralding in the action abound with big, bold horn sections that chime in a lively, celebratory atmosphere. The excitement mounts into big heaps of sonic collages that bowl over the audience with neon-lit flashes. The music turns into a smooth adagio tempo with "City Of Seasons" and "The Blues Singer" as the spotlight shines on the sultry trumpet wails of Clark Terry. It takes a special know-how to determine when certain horns come in with a melodic phrase and other horns crisscross with a complementing bar. This crisscrossing of bars take an effect in the upbeat struts of "Lake Shore Drive" propping up huge crescent tides and ebbs through the instrumentation. The orchestration is precise and sharp when hitting their cues.
The cat-like stealth of the horns in "Davenport Blues" are emblematic of ‘50s cool jazz and the shuffling steps of the horns and drums on "Two Guys And A Gal" will get your feet trotting along to the shimmy of the rhythmic beats. The track includes an insole of dynamic drum solos performed by Louie, Kenny Washington and Sylvia Cuenca. "Piacere" lowers the temperature to a slow simmer heating the piano keys and gently-versed horns. "Give Me The Good Time" keeps the temperature lukewarm and cozy, while "Ballade" makes room for a lover’s promenade. "Terry’s Mood" creates a window for Clark Terry to perform a slinky blues-jazz number that will touch every sweet-spot in your body, whereas "Back To The Basics" is a straight-up ballroom foxtrot. "Now (The Young)" pervades an atmosphere that creates the friendly chatter of cocktail hour, and the final number "Well Alright Then" closes out with a jumping suite that lets everyone in the band glitter and sparkle as if they were made of millions of tiny pieces of crystals that shine lavishly in the light.
That discusses the music of the big band backing up these two jazz tycoons, but now it is time to talk about the two men behind the music. Playing the drums since he was 3-years old, Louie Bellson would later pioneer the double-bass drum set-up. He has performed on over 200 albums for recording artists like Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Louie Armstrong, Pearl Bailey, Tony Bennett, and so many more. He has written more than 1,000 compositions and over a dozen books on playing drums and percussion. In March 2007, he received the Living Jazz Legends Award from the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. He also sponsors two Bellson Scholarships - one at Berklee College of Music in Boston and the other at USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles.
Clark Terry served in the US Navy before embarking on a lucrative profession as a trumpet player. He has performed for seven US Presidents and was a Jazz Ambassador for State Department tours in the Middle East and Africa. He was knighted in Germany and is the recipient of the French Order of Arts and Letters. He has recorded with a number of international orchestras including the Dutch Metropole Orchestra, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, and The Chicago Jazz Orchestra. He has also participated in over 300 recordings whether as the bandleader or a sideman, some of which has been for Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Quincy Jones, and many others. He mentors such youth groups as Clark Terry’s Big Bad Band and Clark Terry’s Young Titans of Jazz and performs live with them both.
Louie Bellson and Clark Terry open the bottle that preserves traditional swing-jazz principles in their latest collaboration. The album shows that Big Band music is one of those genres that communicate to all nationalities and has a place in modern society.