Listen Up: Wednesday, June 20, 2007
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PHOTOS: 1
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Maynard Ferguson

The Essential Maynard Ferguson (Columbia Legacy)

By Tom Geddie

Maynard Ferguson’s career spanned nearly six decades, from the late 1940s until his death last year, during which he had star turns as a virtuoso trumpet player, bandleader, arranger, producer, instrument designer, and music educator. The Essential Maynard Ferguson showcases both his big-band influences and bebop sensibilities, collecting 30 of his recordings from the mid 1950s to late 1990s, with most of the songs coming from the ‘50s and ‘70s. Ferguson was at his best when he was flying. But even at his slowest, he still breathed fairly rare air into his trumpet, valve trombone, baritone horn, flugelhorn, and two instruments of his own invention: the Firebird (a trumpet/trombone hybrid) the Superbone (a slide trombone/valve trombone hybrid). Ferguson mostly interpreted other people’s songs, with the Rocky theme, “Gonna Fly Now,” being his most recognized — but certainly not his best — offering. In addition to jazz standards such as “Caravan,” “Manteca,” and “‘Round Midnight,” this collection also includes such standards as “The Way You Look Tonight” and “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.” His takes on “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz and “Maria” from West Side Story are excellent, even if the songs themselves have become clichés through overplay, while “MacArthur Park” continues to grate no matter who’s doing it. Ferguson, recognized for his hard blowing and high register, and his band are also excellent on straight-ahead jazz numbers, including “Straight Up,” Free Lee,” and “The Fox Hunt.” They share a wicked sense of humor on “Chameleon” and “The Cheshire Cat Walk.” Crisply produced and accompanied by a number of jazz stalwarts, The Essential Maynard Ferguson is a welcome reminder of one of jazz’ best — and possibly most restless — soloists, as he roams through bebop, funk, and fusion and takes countless side trips without ever losing sight of his big band roots. — Tom Geddie


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