Maynard Ferguson, RIP

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Jazz/fusion trumpeter Maynard Ferguson died yesterday at age 78 from liver and kidney failure. NPR did a mini-feature on Maynard this morning, but the only clips they played were from his disco-era "Gonna Fly Now." I can understand that they'd want to use something popular for a general audience, but I was disappointed that most people only know him for that song, or his other more-commercial-but-less-interesting work from that era.

Maynard's entire career, from when he started leading a big band as a teenager, was a six-decade testament to the power of music as a means to share joy with others. If more people were talented enough, dedicated enough, or lucky enough--cartoonist Charles Schulz comes to mind--to spend their entire lives doing what they love, the world would be a much happier place!

I was fortunate enough to see Maynard several times, beginning in the early eighties. He always knew how to play a great solo, assemble a great band, put on a phenomenal show, and inspire other trumpet players to spend time in the woodshed. Maynard was my "gateway drug" into the vast world of jazz trumpet playing: Miles, Dizzy, Clifford, Louis, and so many others stretched my ears in all sorts of ways, but not until Maynard had given me a visceral demonstration of what a trumpet could do within the jazz idiom.

Maynard was unjustly dismissed by some as a one-trick pony for spending too much time lost in the ledger lines, but there was much more to him than upper-register pyrotechnics. He played a mean valve trombone, his jam sessions were great...and the list goes on. I'm listening to his legendary Birdland Dream Band right now, and they swing as hard as they did half a century ago! "Give It One," "Blue Birdland," and his eponymous "Maynard Ferguson" feature tune with Stan Kenton (here at YouTube) never fail to energize me. I'm still waiting for some of his best music to be released on CD.

RIP, Maynard...and thanks for all that music!

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on August 25, 2006 12:59 PM.

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