Friday, August 25, 2006

Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson dies at 78

From Reuters via the Houston Chronicle:

Jazz trumpeter and big-band leader Walter "Maynard" Ferguson, famed for his screaming solos and ability to hit blisteringly high notes, has died at age 78, associates said today.

The Montreal-born Ferguson died Wednesday at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California, of kidney and liver failure brought on by an abdominal infection.


The Penguin Guide to Jazz says of Ferguson: "There are few sights more impressive in animal physiology than the muscles in Maynard Ferguson's upper thorax straining for a top C.

"... Putting a Ferguson disc on the turntable evokes sensations ranging from walking into a high wind to being run down by a truck," according to the Penguin Guide.

Among Ferguson's best known and most commercially successful recordings were "MacArthur Park" and the "Rocky" movie theme, "Gonna Fly Now."

Click here for the rest.

Okay, I have to admit that I've never been much of a Maynard fan. His 70s stuff I was hearing when I was a kid struck me as being too much like Blood, Sweat, and Tears, but without their cool earthiness, and with too much showing off. I mean, he was never in Miles or Louis' league, and as I grew to be a big jazz fan over the years, it seemed that the only people who ever named him as one of the trumpet greats were people who had been in their high school band. But that's the key to his greatness: in addition to being a pretty darned good player, and a jazz survivor with an excellent pedigree, Maynard Ferguson was pretty much the inventor of the high school band clinic. By working with young musicians for many years, most of whom would put away their instruments after graduation, Ferguson single handedly created masses of jazz fans who would not have existed otherwise. Maynard Ferguson was a missionary for jazz in an era when fewer and fewer people were listening to it. Like Carl Sagan, who was only a pretty good scientist, but a great spokesman for science, Ferguson's contribution to jazz cannot be understated.

And, you know what? Ferguson's "Gonna Fly Now" from the first Rocky movie has actually aged pretty well--check out this sample, courtesy of Amazon. He really was pretty wild with those high notes.

Farewell, Maynard Ferguson.