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Clark Terry, Acclaimed Jazz Trumpeter And Composer, Dies At 94

Trumpeter Clark Terry in 1991. Terry's wife announced Saturday that he had died at age 94.

Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET

Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer Clark Terry, who recorded with the likes of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Quincy Jones, has died at age 94.

Gwen Terry wrote that her husband "has joined the big band in heaven where he'll be singing and playing with the angels.

"He left us peacefully, surrounded by his family, students and friends," she wrote on his Facebook page Saturday. She did not say when he died.

Alan Hicks, the director of the 2014 documentary Keep On Keepin' On about Terry's life and career, confirmed to NPR that Terry died on Saturday in Pine Bluff, Ark., of natural causes.

Variety calls Terry "[among] the most prolific and widely admired instrumentalists in jazz, Terry led or co-led more than 80 recording dates and played on more than 900 sessions by the time of his last session in 2004.

"Also proficient on flugelhorn, Terry was best known to the general public as a longtime featured soloist in the house band of NBC's The Tonight Show. In 1960, he became the first African-American staff musician with the network."

The New York Times says:

Terry "was acclaimed for his impeccable musicianship, loved for his playful spirit and respected for his adaptability.

"He was one of the few musicians to have worked with the orchestras of both Duke Ellington and Count Basie. He was for many years a constant presence in New York's recording studios — accompanying singers, sitting in big-band trumpet sections, providing music for radio and television commercials. He recorded with Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and other leading jazz artists as well as his own groups."

Terry's official bio says he is "one of the most recorded musicians in the history of jazz, with more than nine-hundred recordings," with such greats as Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Dinah Washington, Ben Webster, Aretha Franklin, Charlie Barnet, Doc Severinsen, Ray Charles, Billy Strayhorn [and] Dexter Gordon.

In 2010, Terry received a Grammy lifetime achievement award.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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