Thursday, August 24, 2006

RIP MAYNARD FERGUSON. Jazz trumpeter and barnstorming bandleader Maynard Ferguson died yesterday of kidney and liver failure brought on by an abdominal infection, according to his management office.

Born in Canada, Ferguson was famed for the stratospheric high notes showcased in solos and arrangements throughout his career, from his early years as a professional (when he was a featured soloist in Stan Kenton's band) to the decades he spent leading his own groups on recordings and in concerts and workshops around the world.

For young jazz musicians in the Seventies, when big band music was on the wane (to say the least), Ferguson was a highly visible emissary of the Kentonesque, concert-oriented branch of the genre, known for covers such as MacArthur Park, Chameleon (arranged by Jay Chataway) and Gonna Fly Now (also arranged by Chataway) as well as his personal appearances at high schools and colleges.

A showman as well as a musician, Ferguson developed a habit of raising his arms in a kind of victory gesture as his trumpet ascended to increasingly dramatic musical peaks. His style might have been "commercial" and lacking subtlety, but it was also fun and exciting and also inspiring to budding instrumentalists, especially brass players.

Here's Maynard covering the great Thelonious Monk tune Round Midnight.


And here's Maynard (and what has to be one of his Seventies bands) playing a Chataway arrangement of Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me.


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