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Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame officers and inductees: (left to right) Vice President Benita Porter Browning, President James Thomson, Secretary Alita Mantels, Gwen Terry (accepting the posthumous award to her husband Clark Terry) and inductee Ted Ludwig.
Four jazz musicians were inducted into the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame last week in a ceremony at the Capitol Hotel’s ballroom. Among them were two early jazz pioneers, Hot Springs’ Junie Cobb, a bandleader and multi-instrumentalist who was part of the Chicago jazz scene in the 1930s and 1940s, and Little Rock’s Alex Hill, a prolific jazz arranger during that same period who collaborated with Fats Waller and composed for the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Seven-string guitar master Ted Ludwig was the only living musician to be inducted this year. Ludwig, who relocated to Little Rock from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, who was featured in the world premiere of D.J. Sparr’s “Concerto for Jazz Guitar and Orchestra: Katrina” with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in April, performed pieces like “Moonlight in Vermont” with his trio, regular performers at the Capital Bar. Little Rock jazz staple Bob Boyd performed, as well as vocalist Nan Maureen Renaud, and a jazz ensemble featuring Thomas East (vocals, keyboard), Guido Ritchie (trumpet, flugelhorn), Matt Treadway (guitar), Joe Vick (bass), and Brian Brown (drums).
Clark Terry was also inducted, a St. Louis-born trumpeter and flugelhornist whose career spanned nearly 70 years. Terry has the rare distinction of having worked with both the Count Basie and Duke Ellington orchestras (or, as he called it, “The University of Ellingtonia”), as well as Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk, and who found a surprise hit with his improvised tune “Mumbles,” a variation on the type of comedic bluff Terry was prone to giving Johnny Carson when asked to engage in a game of “Stump the Band” on The Tonight Show. Terry died last February in Pine Bluff, where he’d spent his last several years mentoring young musicians, inspiring the Alan Hicks documentary, “Keep On Keepin’ On.”