Get this crazy baby off my head!


Maynard Ferguson

Maynard Ferguson - Master of the Stratosphere - 1997 - Sony

In the mid-1940s, while leading his own band in the Montreal area and in Toronto, Maynard Ferguson's talents were noticed by some prominent U.S bandleaders. In 1978, Paul Bley said that 'Maynard would always open the show, and he played three octaves higher on trumpet than anyone else... you ought to have seen the jaws drop on the visiting musicians'. In 1948, Ferguson went to the USA, and played with the big bands of Boyd Raeburn, Jimmy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet, and the great Stan Kenton until 1953. Around this time, Maynard was making a big impression on the public. He won the Down Beat readers' polls for trumpet in 1950, 1951, and 1952. In 1950, he cut his first records under under his own name , for Capitol, while leading the Stan Kenton band of the day. In the mid-1980s, Maynard had moved to Ojai, Cal, and in 1987 introduced his fusion septet, High Voltage. Ten lears later, he had moved away from fusion and returned to the more traditional big band jazz style, playing with the Big Bop Nouveau Band. Maynard was an extensive tourer, and travelled for eight months of the year. He played in many prestigious jazz events, made numerous TV appearances, many great albums, and he had the honour of playing solo trumpet for the opening ceremony of the Montreal 1976 Olympics. Many Canadians have been members of his bands, including,the singer Anne Marie Moss, the tenor saxophonist Georgie Auld, and the trombonists Rob McConnell and Phil Gray. Kenny Wheeler arranged and composed for Maynard's English band. Maynard Ferguson was a genius of the trumpet, and his mastery of the instrument was incredible. His music is still loved, not just by jazz fans, but by lovers of good popular music. As is usual with unorthodox jazz players like Maynard, he received a lot of criticism for venturing beyond the classical jazz form. Some purists rather unfairly called him an exhibitionist, and a showman. An example of this was his using an aria from I Pagliacci as an encore to his shows, and "over embellishing" his music with flamboyant high notes. However, much of Maynard's "musical embellishments" were obviously not understood properly, as Maynard was a great improvisor. These "high notes" were often used as a part of that improvisation, and certainly not to "show-off". He never lowered the standard of great jazz music. "Master of the Stratosphere" is a brilliant album, with fabulous interpretations of tracks like Chick Corea's "La Fiesta", Jimmy Webb's "MacArthur Park", D.C Thomas' "Spinning Wheel", and Isaac Hayes classic "Theme From Shaft". The album is V.H.R by A.O.O.F.C. Maynard Ferguson was a great musician, a great Montrealer, and gave wonderful music to the world. Listen to his brilliant "Primal Scream" album.


01. PRIMAL SCREAM - J.Chattaway, Maynard Ferguson
03. CHAMELEON - P.Jackson, H.Mason, B.Maupin, H.Hancock
04. GOSPEL JOHN - J.Steinberg
05. LA FIESTA - C.Corea
06. GONNA FLY NOW (THEME FROM "ROCKY") - B.Conti, C.Connors, A.Robbins
08. PAGLIACCI - J.Chattaway
10. THEME FROM "SHAFT" - I.Hayes

N.B: A list of the musicians on this album would be welcomed


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, allmusic.com