Dogs on the Inside + The Great Clark Terry

February 2, 2015 | By


Opening this Friday at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema is Dogs on the Inside (2014), a tight little documentary about the Don’t Throw Us Away program in which inmates train rescued dogs prior to being adopted by families.

It’s impossible not to be hit by the poignancy of the relationships between emotionally traumatized and physically abused & neglected dogs, and the inmates. Both are given equally time, with the filmmakers’ message – everyone deserves a second chance – coming through loud and clear.

Also reviewed is Anchor Bay’s DVD of Keep on Keepin’ On (2014), Alan Hicks’ great documentary on Clark Terry, the now 94 year old jazz legend who continues to mentor young talent in spite of some serious health issues. Hicks began the doc when he noticed Terry and his latest student, pianist Justin Kauflin, were both in the process of losing their sight, yet as clichéd as it sounds, Hicks’ film is a celebration of the human spirit, and passing knowledge selflessly to new generations to ensure an art form and the chronology of its history and pioneers are never forgotten.

I’ve been a huge jazz fan for years, but Terry was never among the trumpet players and composers to which I gravitated, something attributed to the sheer wealth of music that was available to take out from my local libraries. This is prior to their inclusion of CDs, so like many, I raided their LP collection to try out and see what exactly was jazz.

I came to love it by accident, in a way. The library where I worked during high school had a Wynton Marsalis LP (1984’s Hot House Flowers) which was earning a lot of radio play and critical praise. It was a slow, sultry style of performing old standards with a rich orchestra, and that style was initially what led me to jazz. Other albums, perhaps odd in retrospect, were Jackie Gleason’s schmaltzy mood music LPs from the fifties & sixties (one may have been Music for Lovers Only), and that Linda Ronstadt / Nelson Riddle collaboration (1983’s What’s New) which won lots of awards and renewed an interest in fifties orchestral jazz ballads.

These were mainstream albums – light, non-experimental, smooth productions for the masses – but that Marsalis LP led me  to his early work, plus his brother Brandford, whose aggressive style was electrifying.

Riddle’s album led to Frank Sinatra. The two worked on several classic LPs that were sometimes rather haunting, like Only the Lonley, and Riddle himself scored and orchestrated multiple soundtracks, including Pal Joey (1957) with Sinatra, Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita (1962), and Batman (1966). He also wrote the exquisite arrangements of twenties songs in Jack Clayton’s version of The Great Gatsby (1974), which featured a still heartbreaking version of “What’ll I Do.”


Yeah. Like you’ll be EXACTLY as misty as blondie.

Gleason, well, he kind of became a marker of sleek schmaltz that I stopped listening to a while ago, but sleek also ties to lounge, which I’d argue has some tendrils wrapped around Italian lounge music, which proliferated Italian film scores by composers such as Riz Ortolani (Mondo Cane’s “More”) and especially Stelvio Cipriani (Bay of Blood).

In addition to the library, other ‘mentors’ to good music were a pair of co-workers at the store I worked during university, Chris & Tim; the former had a massive encyclopedic knowledge of jazz artists from the thirties thru the fifties, and the latter was a Mingus-ologist, or one who is fully immersed in all things Charles Mingus.

Chris also introduced me to Stanley Turrentine, whose album Joyride (1965) was produced by Oliver Nelson, perhaps one of jazz’ greatest orchestrators, arrangers, and a soulful sax player in need of a serious rediscovery. (The reason the music for Last Tango in Paris is so gorgeous isn’t just Gato Barbieri’s compositions and performance; it’s Nelson’s stunning arrangements with string orchestra. Luxurious, erotic, and enveloping.)

A number of Nelson’s LPs were produced for Blue Note, who also released many classic Miles Davis LPs.

So where was Clark Terry? In the background, because while I had heard maybe a little of his music, my ears were tuned to Miles Davis (the Bebop years, the Gil Evans collaboration, the aggressive live sets, and later the electrified Bitches Brew and its spawn); and the film music of Quincy Jones, plus his fifties and early sixties big band jazz albums.

Jones and Davis were mentored under Terry, so already familiar with much of their work, I think it’s about time to check out Clark Terry’s canon.

Last point: I’m still waiting for albums of Quincy Jones’ The Pawnbroker (1964) and In Cold Blood (1967) scores. Not the re-recorded albums, but the original recordings, because they are standout examples of jazz scores which perfectly weave their way through dark narratives, supporting troubled characters, and adding deep subtext to the kind of bruised psychologies shared by the inmates in Dogs on the Inside.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Comments are closed.