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Monday, 4 May 2015

Maynard Ferguson born 4 May 1928

Walter Maynard Ferguson (May 4, 1928 – August 23, 2006) was a Canadian jazz musician and bandleader. He came to prominence playing in Stan Kenton's orchestra, before forming his own band in 1957. He was noted for being able to play accurately in a remarkably high register, and for his bands, which served as stepping stones for up-and-coming talent.

Ferguson was born in Verdun, Quebec (now part of Montreal). Encouraged by his mother and father, Maynard was playing piano and violin by the age of four. Newsreel footage exists of Ferguson as a child prodigy violinist. At nine years old, he heard a cornet for the first time in his local church and asked his parents to purchase one for him. At age thirteen, Ferguson first soloed as a child prodigy with the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Orchestra and was heard frequently on the CBC, notably featured on a "Serenade for Trumpet in Jazz" written for him by Morris Davis. Ferguson won a scholarship to the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal where he s
tudied from 1943 through 1948 with Bernard Baker.

Ferguson dropped out of Montreal High School at age 15 to more actively pursue a music career, performing in dance bands led by Stan Wood, Roland David, and Johnny Holmes. While trumpet was his primary instrument, Ferguson also performed on other brass and reed instruments. Ferguson later took over the dance band formed by his saxophonist brother Percy, playing dates in the Montreal area and serving as an opening act for touring bands from Canada and the USA. During this period, Ferguson came to the attention of numerous American band leaders and began receiving offers to come to the United States.

Ferguson finally moved to the United States in 1948 intending to join Stan Kenton's organization. But Kenton had just disbanded his orchestra, so Ferguson initially played with the bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie
Barnet. The Barnet band was notable for a trumpet section that also included Doc Severinsen, Ray Wetzel, Johnny Howell, and Rolf Ericson. Ferguson was featured on a notoriously flamboyant Barnet recording of Jerome Kern's "All The Things You Are" that showcased Ferguson's upper register playing. The recording reportedly enraged Kern's widow and was subsequently withdrawn from sale. When Barnet temporarily retired in 1949 and disbanded his orchestra, Ferguson was free to accept an offer to join Stan Kenton's newly formed Innovations Orchestra.

When he debuted with Stan Kenton's Orchestra in 1950, Maynard Ferguson could play higher than any other trumpeter up to that point in jazz history, and he was accurate. Somehow he kept most of that range through his career and since the 1970s has been one of the most famous musicians in jazz. Never known for his exquisite taste (some of his more commercial efforts are unlistenable), Ferguson nevertheless led some important bands and definitely made an impact with his trumpet playing.

In 1950, with the formation of Kenton's Innovations Orchestra, Ferguson became a star, playing ridiculous high notes with ease. In 1953, he left Kenton to work in the studios of Los Angeles and three years later led the all-star "Birdland Dreamband." In 1957, he put together a regular big band that lasted until 1965, recorded regularly for Roulette (all of the band's recordings with that label are on a massive Mosaic box set) and performed some of the finest music of Ferguson's career. Such players as Slide Hampton, Don Ellis, Don Sebesky, Willie Maiden, John Bunch, Joe Zawinul, Joe Farrell, Jaki Byard, Lanny Morgan, Rufus Jones, Bill Berry, and Don Menza were among the more notable sidemen.

After economics forced him to give up the impressive band, Ferguson had a few years in which he was only semi-active in music, spending time in India and eventually forming a new band in England. After moving back to the U.S., Ferguson in 1974 drifted quickly into commercialism. Young trumpeters in high school and colleges were amazed by his high notes, but jazz fans were dismayed by the recordings that resulted in hit versions of such songs as the themes from Star Wars and Rocky and much worse.

After cutting back on his huge orchestra in the early '80s, Ferguson recorded some bop in a 1983 session, led a funk band called High Voltage during 1987-1988, and then returned to jazz with his "Big Bop Nouveau Band," a medium-sized outfit with which he toured the world up until his death from kidney and liver failure on August 23, 2006. (Info edited from Wikipedia & All Music)

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For Maynard Ferguson – “Verve Jazz Masters” go here;
1. King's Riff (3:15)
2. Maiden Voyage (3:02)
3. Willie Nillie (3:07)
4. Hymn to Her (2:37)
5. The Way You Look Tonight (2:58)
6. Can't We Talk It Over? (4:56)
7. Egad, Martha (3:55)
8. Dancing Nitely (3:47)
9. The Lamp Is Low (3:26)
10. Dream Boat (2:54)
11. Pork Pie (3:29)
12. Never You Mind (3:30)
13. Love Me or Leave Me (2:41)
14. Moonlight in Vermont (3:46)
15. Easy to Love (3:11)
16. Wildman (3:13)

Recorded in Los Angeles, California; New York, New York and Radio Recorders, Hollywood, California between 1951 and 1957.
The first half of this Verve compilation emphasizes the small group recordings of trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, while the latter half of the disc features scaled-down big-band selections. Although there are beautiful arrangements here by Bill Holman and Willie Maiden, much of this music still revolves around individual soloists, rather than section work or complex, weighty compositions.

The album's opener, "King's Riff," sees Ferguson performing with a quintet. On this tune, Ben Webster's dark, smoky tenor-saxophone playing contrasts with Ferguson's bright, brassy tone. Other highlights include the high-energy "Love Me or Leave Me" and the equally lively "Easy to Love." On the latter, the light ensemble work is tempered by vigorous bop solos from pianist Bobby Timmons and alto saxophonist Jimmy Ford. Ferguson himself plays an uncharacteristically delicate muted trumpet solo on this standard. The only song to features a singer is the ballad "Moonlight in Vermont." On this powerful arrangement, Irene Kral's silky voice is offset by the vociferous brass, including Ferguson's own robust lead trumpet work. Overall, this compilation gives listeners an excellent overview of the early career of this unique jazz master.