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Maynard Ferguson 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.

After heading his own big band in Montreal, Ferguson came to the United States in 1949 with hopes of joining Kenton's orchestra, but that ensemble had just recently broke up. So instead, Ferguson gained experience playing with the big bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, and Charlie Barnet. 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 tasteless 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. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Comments

Man. MF was the bomb and, as Hiker Dude said, a HUGE influence, particularly on horn players, of which I was one. I saw him front and center at Shoreline CC in Seattle in '74..they blew the doors off. Live at Jimmy's is the seminal MF album. Not released on CD until after his death in 06 due to some dust up w Columbia. Saw him in an archive/inte r v i e w session at the EMP in 04. Still frickin cooler than the day is long! RIP MF
artharrison2
Unlistenable ? ? I wouldn't call you a jazz snob because you are unreadable. MF at his worst was attracting kids by the tens of thousands to jazz, many of who played in jazz bands, drum corps, or even became music teachers. All of whom you have managed to insult and offend with your condescendin g remark. I saw Maynard on his 60th birthday tour in Ft. Lauderdale, front row center stage. That was definitely listenable and still is!
jmerl1
It is only unlistenable if you are not a brass player, his early stuff is freaky, the whole band was great. Night Train had a tuba shaking notes like a lead player, not to mention the french horns playing like animals. Maynard is one of the greatest who made loud hard blowing trumpet players kool.
jim.hill.bec k e r
In the early 80s, I saw Maynard perform at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he was a trustee ( I think.) Anyway, at the end of an awesome concert, they announced that a scholarship in MF's name has been created and they had the first winner come up on stage. The recipient of the scholarship was a trumpet player and he was awed to meet MF. I'll bet he felt even better when MF, unannounced, removed his mouthpiece from his horn and presented it to the young man. Now that was a clasy
Maynard was the best, bar none, trumpet entertainer of all--and he peaked in the 70's with thousands of young trumpet players all over the country. Was there ever any better ending to a concert than when he and his trumpet section would disperse into the audience and blow their brains out playing the last phrase of Hey Jude multiple times!! Unlistenable ? Dang that's harsh!
Get your nose out of the air, you jazz snob - there are other legitimate kinds of music besides jazz and if Star Trek doesn't qualify nothing does (one of the best theme songs in TV history). MF, was, as someone said below, an entertainer - and among the best.
bkasperitis
What a crappy bio on MF.... Geeezzzz !!!!
Exciting arrangements . . . . Made me want to get the horn out and PLAY!
Come on Scott! A little commercial and corny sometimes but unlistenable (is that even a legitimate word)...I don't think so...Songs like La Fiesta, Give it One, MacArthur Park, Hey Jude...etc. were great songs and personally I find your review a bit saxoPHONY ..... if you get my drift!!
Scott-you lost a lot of respect from me. Sure, he did go commercial in the 70's. As Kchurhran sez, for the jazz purist, Star Trek aint Gonna Fly, but you're just jumping into the critic's bandwagon with Tasteless and unlistenable comments. Some his 70's works remain my faves, and he was strongthen, even with a different medium. Maynard, Doc, Chase-they all opened our ears to what the horn is capable of, and made us better appreciators of other music. Unlistenable ? How bout Lada Gaga!
I think the part that so many miss about MF is that he was not just a trumpet player or musician, but an entertainer. Sure, the jazz purist isn't going to like "Gonna Fly Now" or "Star Trek," but I know such efforts were a doorway to jazz for many young people. I, for one, never would have listened to or appreciated Miles if it wasn't for Maynard!
xvnate
Maynard's late bands could still swing their collective butts off and the fact is, he was huge draw for kids and introduced the thrill of big band jazz to several generations - his bands and efforts influenced much more than just high school trumpet players. It's a shame to leave out this fact when discussing his influence.
The greatest and most exciting trumpet player and band leader who ever lived, Maynard Ferguson!
pacu1946
fui musico desde los 14 anos espesificame n t e trompetista esto medio la oportunidad
de oir muchos tropetas de una calidad incuestionab l e pero distiguisiem p r e a maynard ferguson por su calidad en el fraso y su esepcional labio.
MAYNARD FERGUSON NEVER, EVER PUT ANYTHING OUT "TASTELESS", MAYBE SOME PEOPLE HAVE NO TASTE. HOW CAN THAT BE SAID ABOUT THE BEST TRUMPETER TO EVER TOUCH THE HORN????? NOW THAT'S TASTELESS (AND NOT TO MENTION WORTH-LESS, CLASS-LESS, AND ANY OTHER "-LESS"'S YOU CAN THINK OF!)

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