All that ASU jazz plays new in ’85
by Carolyn Nelson
His opening theme is “When He Makes Music” by Marvin Fisher and Jack Segal, but ask Dan Terry, the new director of the Sun Devil Concert Jazz Band, about his background and it begins to sound a bit like a bill for an all-star album.
Terry has worked for the orchestras of Muggsy Spanier, Larry Clinton and Buddy Rich.
He is friends with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey and has swapped compositions with Count Basie and Quincy Jones. Then, when he wasn’t touring leading hotels and ballrooms with his own big band, he was musical director for stars like Sammy Davis, Jr., Jerry Lewis and Barbara McNair.
Terry also ran his Las Vegas-based music service that included writing, arranging, conducting and copying music for acts like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte, Raquel Welch and Paul Anka.
In addition to appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Steve Allen, he has earned screen credit in the films “The Hustler” and “Birth of a Band.”
Despite a star-studded past, Terry is still excited about working with the young talent in ASU’s band.
“I love young people,” Terry said. “It’s a kick to try to get them to think and to find a direction. It’s going to be a great band.”
Terry has some big plans for the Sun Devil Concert Jazz Band,. Their first concert is October 14, and they intend to participate in several competitions in California.
“We’re going to do everything we can to get some recognition. The kids deserve it. They work hard,” Terry said.
The band also would like to do some Friday afternoon dances from 4-6 p.m. upstairs in MU. They would charge $1 which would go toward a fund for the band, Terry said.
“I’m excited to be at the University,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent here. We need some more players – a girl singer and a boy singer.”
Terry has always been intrigued with Phoenix and came from New York to enjoy some warmer weather. He made a visit to ASU’s campus to walk through the music department.
Impressed with the jazz studies program, Terry was interested when Chuck Marohnic, director of jazz, mentioned that a jazz band director was taking a sabbatical.
Terry filled that spot.
Terry’s method with the band is a straight-forward mixture of informality and respect. He enjoys working with each individual player, and he hopes to use his experience to teach the students how to develop themselves.
“I’m here. I want to pass something on,” Terry said.
Another aspect of Terry’s musical life in Tempe is the Equal Opportunity Jazz Band where he conducts and plays trumpet.
A 20-piece band of which better than half the players are or were ASU students includes 1984’s jazz band star, Steve Marsh.
The Equal Opportunity Jazz Band plays every Monday at After the Gold Rush.
The sound, by Terry’s description, is brassy.
Though Equal Opportunity Is a big band by definition, they play jazz, swing, ballads or anything else the job calls for, Terry said.
Terry even has some rock and disco arrangements, although the tunes have more of a jazz sound, he said.
“I won’t play that much rock – just the good things,” Terry said. “I object to the rhythmic banging and heavy back–beat. It grates on me.”
The band plays many of the old big-band favorites, but with a distinctly contemporary style. Terry may have worked with many of jazz’s biggest names, but he strongly advocates artistic originality.
“I don’t believe in copying other people’s music. You were not going to copy Hackett’s solo in ‘Tuxedo Junction’ or Dorsey’s ‘Song of India.’ This is not 1940. It’s 1985 and you can’t live in the past,” Terry said.
Similarly, he will not play songs his band does not want to play. Thus, it is truly an equal opportunity group.
Terry said the Phoenix area, particularly Tempe, has more culture than most cities. There is much more interest in jazz and new things, as demonstrated by concert halls such as Gammage or the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, he said.
Terry feels the music program at ASU is one of the finest in the country as far as classical music is concerned with the jazz program as an added strength.
He would, however, like to see such musical activities expanded by way of corporate sponsorship.
“They sponsor many things and it’s good. It helps,” Terry said. “A corporate sponsorship could be developed. The scholarship situation has benefited greatly from corporate status.”
On the subject of making a living as a young jazz musician, Terry said there is a lot of work in town.
“The more acts that come in, the more work there will be,” Terry said.
However, it’s no picnic out there, he said.
“You’ve got to pay a lot of dues. There may always be a new Dizzy Gillespie or Glenn Miller out there, but you have to be willing to really sacrifice,” Terry said.
Terry believes his own destiny in this world is to make music.
His dream is to see dancing to jazz music come back into style. This goal revolves around working with young people, this time by capturing their interest.
“If the beat’s strong, you can do anything. If the music moves you, you’re on your way, Terry said.